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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Unveiling the dark side of phone boxes: Ealing council takes on telecom giants

Cllr Mason said: “I am going to use this opportunity afforded to me to denounce the telecom companies, who unfortunately contribute to antisocial behaviour on our high streets.”

Ealing Council Leader Peter Mason has ‘denounced’ telecom companies, accusing them of contributing to antisocial behaviour on the borough’s high streets in the name of advertisement revenue. During a recent cabinet meeting where the conclusions of a Scrutiny Panel on the area’s recovery from the pandemic were discussed, Cllr Mason pulled no punches saying he and his colleagues were “sick to death” of phone boxes littering the streets of Ealing.

His comments came after the panel found that for “businesses large and small crime and antisocial behaviour is a significant problem.”The report continued that crime and antisocial behaviour were an issue “for retail businesses right across the borough and that this has been getting worse.

“Aggressive shoplifting and ASB put off shoppers and have led to some retail workers leaving the sector in addition to the direct cost to businesses of the theft. The viability of some shops is at risk due to crime. There is work to be done by the police as well as the Council and BIDs in tackling these issues.”

Image of a person taking drugs in a BT phone box on Boston Road in Hanwell, councillors have requester its removal.

Cllr Mason took his time in summation to target the role phone boxes have in providing a location for antisocial behaviour to take place.  LDRS has previously reported on the usage of phone boxes as venues for drug taking, often done in broad daylight.

He said: “I am going to use this opportunity afforded to me to denounce the telecom companies, who unfortunately contribute to antisocial behaviour on our high streets.”

The council leader said that companies do this by “using the permitted development rights afforded to them by the coalition government to keep a copious number of telephone boxes all over the high streets that aren’t used.”

“Go into any telephone box in Ealing Broadway or indeed Hanwell Broadway and they don’t work but they refuse to remove them, why? Because of the advertising revenue.”

Cllr Mason called for a reform to the current law on phone boxes so that councils like Ealing could begin to tackle them as havens of antisocial behaviour and drug taking. He said that he, residents and other members of the council were “frankly sick to death of these boxes where, well we won’t go into what happens in them but it’s certainly not making phone calls.”

In the past few months, a phone box in Hanwell became a flashpoint for these concerns as residents decried seeing people smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine in broad daylight, sometimes in front of children. The council says it will be coordinating with police to help curb issues and says that encouraging residents to attend meetings with key police figures, such as coffee with a copper, has bore positive results.

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