Huddersfield Civic Society says Kirklees Council was right to ban digital display screens in Huddersfield town centre – and wants the council to get rid of other street clutter too.
The council has rejected a bid by BT to have several high visibility street communication hubs in Huddersfield town centre.
The 5.5ft-tall hubs are large lit display units on pavements that boost 5G internet in the area and provide free Wi-Fi with their running costs paid for by advertisers using its 75-inch screen to get their messages across. BT allows councils to put messages on there too.
But the council has rejected all six applications … a move welcomed by Huddersfield Civic Society.
In its objections to the proposals the society said: “These display units are not only contrary to the aim of protecting and improving Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area, but add unnecessary clutter to the street scene.
“At a time when improvements are being made to hard landscaping with appropriate materials, as has taken place along Dundas Street, Half Moon Street and St George’s Street with plans underway in connection with the town centre Blueprint, such units would be both unsightly and inappropriate.
“Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area is already classed as at risk by Historic England which describes the area as ‘very bad’ and ‘deteriorating.’
“Such signs can only exacerbate this issue and totally contradict the council’s recognition and efforts to visually improve perceptions of the town.”
Civic Society chairman David Wyles said: “Unnecessary clutter does nothing to improve the public perception of the town centre but can also prove inconvenient and dangerous to people with mobility issues or those who are partially sighted.”
The hubs would have been on main streets including Market Place, Ramsden Street, King Street, New Street, Westgate and Trinity Street.
Some of the sites, such as New Street and Ramsden Street, are within key regeneration areas identified within the council’s Blueprint which aims to rejuvenate the town centre and enhance public spaces, including reducing and improving street furniture.
Huddersfield Civic Society has previously raised concern over the level of street clutter and the need to upgrade street furniture such as litter bins, utility boxes, signposts and signage.
Mr Wyles added: “Removing clutter and improving our streetscape is essential if we are to create high quality, accessible and welcoming public spaces. The refusal of these applications is one step in the right direction. Let’s hope more can be done.”
The hubs are now springing up across the UK to replace old-style phone boxes.
BT describes the street hubs as ‘community assets’ that cost the council and people who use them nothing. People can call 999 services free on them so BT says they help to make the streets safer.
They provide ultrafast public and encrypted Wi-Fi access, have USB ports so people can rapidly charge their devices, are powered by 100% renewable carbon-free energy, are inspected weekly and cleaned at least every two weeks.
Councils are allowed 876 hours of free advertising every year and an icon on the hub’s community notice board provides direct access to charities. The hubs can be used to promote events and activities. Environmental sensors on the hubs measure air quality, noise, traffic and more.
BT says: “We’re making streets smarter with ultrafast Wi-Fi, public messaging and better mobile connectivity. We’re making them safer with ready access to public and emergency services. And we’re making them more sustainable with sensors allowing for ‘smart city’ planning and reduced street clutter.”
In their pre-application advice Kirklees planners said the proposal for two hubs on Westgate was “wholly unacceptable due to harm to the significance of the Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area and surrounding listed buildings” and lead to “unnecessary clutter.”
The one on Ramsden Street would have an “adverse impact on the listed town hall and the adjacent Prudential Assurance Buildings among other listed buildings and harm the significance of the Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area.”
The hub planned next to 10 Trinity Street was condemned by Kirklees as “wholly unacceptable on the grounds of public safety. This footway forms an important route for students from Greenhead College to and from the town centre, including to the bus station. This unit would unacceptably reduce the width of the public footway.”
- Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.