Government proposals to scrap planning rules for the siting of broadband street cabinets, contradicts ambitions to revive the UK's high streets and local economies, Living Streets says.
The Infrastructure Bill as it stands will allow network providers to install the cabinets on pavements and pedestrian areas, says the charity, reducing footfall at a time when high street retailers are most in need of trade.
Living Streets' Manager of Policy and Public Affairs, Dr Kevin Golding-Williams, said: "There is simply no clear evidence that we've seen to demonstrate that relaxing planning restrictions on the installation of these cabinets on our footways will deliver any economic benefit. Conversely, we know that obstructions deter people from walking on their local high streets and have a negative impact on the quality of life for people with prams and vulnerable pedestrians, such as those with mobility issues or visual impairment. At a time when the Government is encouraging active travel as part of public health policy, it seems ridiculous to literally put obstacles in people's way."
While the charity welcomed the Government's proposal to develop a code of best siting practice with representatives from the LGA, fixed network providers, Planning Officers Society and English Heritage, it remains concerned that the code might be over ridden because of the ambiguity of what might constitute reasonable or proportionate objection.
Dr Golding-Williams added:
"This legislation effectively gives fixed network providers or their contractors a free rein to site these broadband cabinets with no consideration for pedestrian access, street cleaning or the aesthetics of our towns. There is no substantial economic evidence to support this move, there seems little justification for it."