Digital ‘phone boxes’ for the 21st century could be coming to Huddersfield.

BT wants to replace some of the more modern phone boxes in Huddersfield town centre with new Street Hubs which it says will boost connectivity on the high street.

BT Group Ltd has submitted planning applications for 13 Street Hubs, mainly in the town centre, though there are some on prominent main roads including the A62 Leeds Road outside the Leeds Road Retail Park, close to the John Smith’s Stadium.

The Hubs are just short of 10ft (298cm) tall and 4ft (123.6cm) wide. They are 13 inches (35cm) thick and have a 75-inch digital HD display screen on either side.

The Hubs provide:

  • Lightning fast public wi-fi;
  • Free phone calls;
  • Rapid device charging via USB ports;
  • A tablet interface;
  • A direct 999 button;
  • Environmental sensors to measure such as air quality, noise and traffic levels.

The Hubs, which have features to allow the partially-sighted, deaf and people with disabilities to use them, are being rolled out across the UK.

The idea is that the Hubs are free for the public to use and would be paid for by advertisements on the two screens.

BT wants to replace phone boxes in Huddersfield town centre at 33 King Street (near Footasylum); outside 2-4 Ramsden Street (near the former Boots Opticians); at the junction of Market Place and New Street (near Rico menswear); and at 106 New Street (Barnardo’s shop).

It also wants Hubs installed outside Iceland at 10 Trinity Street; outside the University of Huddersfield’s Richard Steinitz Building in Queensgate; adjacent 25/27 New Street and adjacent to 43 Westgate.

Away from Huddersfield town centre, the phone box could be replaced outside Leeds Road Retail Park in Leeds Road and at 320A Bradford Road, Fartown, at the busy crossroads junction with Fartown Green Road and Spaines Road; while Hubs could be installed outside The Junction pub in Westbourne Road, Marsh, and outside Riverbank Court in Wakefield Road, Aspley.

All 12 applications were submitted in September and are open to public consultation on the Kirklees Council website.

The other application was submitted to Kirklees Council in July and has already been refused. BT wanted a Hub outside Huddersfield Bus Station in Upperhead Row near to Dundas Street, where there are two phone boxes.

The council said the changing digital displays would be a distraction to both drivers and pedestrians and be harmful to public safety.

BT head of street James Browne said: “Street Hubs form part of BT’s plan to transform the UK’s streets with a digital communications service designed for the 21st century.

“I’m really excited that we’re now evolving the service even further with a newly-designed Street Hub 2.0 unit which is more sustainable while delivering free public wi-fi services and improved 4G/5G mobile coverage to local communities.

“The free digital services provided by our Street Hub units can play an important role in helping to revive the UK’s high streets following the pandemic.

“We are working closely with local councils and communities to introduce the new units to more parts of the country, enhancing the UK’s future digital infrastructure and bringing benefits to residents, businesses and tourists alike.”