By Andy Hirst
Plans to put several digital advertising display screens – or Street Hubs – around Huddersfield town centre have been met with a firm ‘no’ from Huddersfield Civic Society.
And advice from Kirklees Council to British Telecom before the tech giant submitted the proposals for six sites shows they are against them too.
The sites include New Street, Westgate, King Street, Ramsden Street and Trinity Street.
BT has submitted a total of 13 planning applications for the new Street Hubs, many of which would replace existing phone boxes.
The Street Hubs are just short of 10ft tall and around 4ft wide and will offer free public wi-fi, phone calls and device charging. The Hubs have 75-inch HD screens on either side which will display adverts. This is what Street Hubs are all about.
The council has already refused one to replace phone boxes outside Huddersfield Bus Station in Upperhead Row, saying they would be distracting and harmful to road safety for both drivers and pedestrians.
In their objection HCS states: “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 improve hard landscaping with appropriate materials – as has taken place along Dundas Street, Half Moon Street and St George’s Street – and plans are 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. These applications must be refused as part of a developing programme to eliminate clutter from the high street.”
In one of the applications – for outside 43 Westgate, close to the bridge over Huddersfield Railway Station – the pre-application advice from Kirklees says: “Wholly unacceptable due to harm to the significance of the Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area and surrounding listed buildings at this important gateway site for which there has been significant public realm improvements in the very recent past.
“Any re-siting would result in unnecessary clutter which the recent works to public realm have sought to remove. The harm would include that to the siting of the nearby Grade I listed Huddersfield Railway Station and Grade II listed 12,14,16,18,20 St George’s Square.”
Another location is for the footpath opposite numbers 2 and 4 Ramsden Street. The pre-application advice states: “Adverse impact on setting of listed Town Hall and the adjacent Prudential Assurance Buildings, among other listed buildings, and harm to the significance of the Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area. Would result in unnecessary clutter in the wider public realm.
“There is already a two-sided advertisement display on the other side of the road. A recent proposal to upgrade this to a digital display was refused advertisement consent.”
Other applications include screens on a footpath outside the Piazza Shopping Centre on King Street; footpath next to 1 New Street close to the historic Market Place and the listed Market Cross; next to 106 New Street; next to 10 Trinity Street.
The pre-application advice for the Trinity Street one states: “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.”
In response BT says: “The proposed advertisements on either side of the freestanding Street Hub units will result in an enhancement of the public realm by removing existing uncontrolled advertisements on existing BT payphones and replacing them within a single Street Hub of a sleek modern and innovative design, displaying advertisements of a modern appearance in keeping with its location.”
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting.