JCDecaux, which claims to be the world's largest outdoor advertising contractor, is promising local authorities it wants to help declutter town centres -- and then promptly abandons this pledge by pressing on with its controversial application for two advertising and communication hubs on the recently widened High Street pavements of High Barnet.

One of two new hubs is being proposed close to the entrance to The Spires shopping centre -- just yards away from an existing telephone box which is rarely if ever used and is already an obstruction for pedestrians.

After Barnet Council’s refusal last year to approve the two new communication hubs with touch-screen information boards and illuminated advertising displays, JCDecaux has decided to challenge the decision on appeal.

The Barnet Society and the Chipping Barnet Town Team are both informing the planning inspector of their continued opposition to the installation of communication and advertising displays that would make a nonsense of the efforts made over the last decade to declutter the High Street.

Communication hubs would be a fresh obstacle for pedestrians, become unwanted visual distractions in the middle of the widened pavements and reduce the amount of clear space for future market stalls or café tables.

The deadline for objections to be registered on a government website is Monday 16 August – see details below.

One of the new hubs would be placed outside Barnet Hardware (113 High Street) where the widened pavement is already somewhat congested with   pedestrian crossing lights, a bench, an Historic Barnet information board, a lamp post, another bench, a tree, and a litter bin.

Within just a few yards of this location, on the other side of The Spires’ entrance, right outside the Botanika restaurant, is a large and intrusive phone box and advertising display operated by New World Payphones.

Some yards away in the other direction -- outside the KFC restaurant -- is a bus shelter which already has a JCDecaux advertising display.

The second of the new hubs would be outside Zental Dental (85 High Street) where again a large information screen and advertising display would have to be squeezed in between a cycle rack and a lamp post.

JCDecaux is appealing against Barnet Council’s refusal to grant permission for a network of eight communication hubs in “prime shopping areas” – including the two in Barnet High Street and another two in the High Road in Finchley.

Each communication hub would offer a range of digital services via a large touchscreen display allowing people to access digital services when out of home.

“The proposals for Barnet...embody JCDecaux’s ethos of decluttering the public realm...and is a response to the public appetite for functional high-quality ‘smart’ furniture that meets modern needs.”

Incorporated within the structure on the reverse side is a façade to display messages which could include free local messaging as well as paid for commercial advertisements.

“The images can include informative as well as emergency messaging, for example by the police, local retailers, Transport for London and charities such as Missing People and Shelter.”

Even though the communication hub proposed at 85 High Street would be within the Wood Street Conservation area, JCDecaux says in its appeal documents that it does not consider “the limited number of hub locations across the borough is excessive or have an over-bearing impact that would harm the appearance of the area”.

Robin Bishop, chair of the society’s planning and environment committee, says JCDecaux’s appeal against the refusal of all eight communication hubs suggested the company is more concerned about a blanket ban on future advertising rather than the two High Street sites.

Another issue might be concern about competition from lamp-post advertising banners which have been approved in Station Road New Barnet and the north end of East Barnet Road.

Decisions on applications for banners proposed for Barnet High Street, down Barnet Hill, and in Whetstone, have yet to be announced.

Read more about the Barnet Society’s objections to the communication hubs at:

https://www.barnetsociety.org.uk/component/k2/return-of-the-zombie-telecom-hubs

Objections to the planning inspector can be made online at www.gov.uk/appeal-planning-inspectorate

Comments should be submitted by Monday 16 August 202. The relevant appeal references are:

APP/N5090/W/21/3269739

APP/N5090/H/21/3269741

APP/N5090/H/21/3269746

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