Waterloo phone box can become coffee kiosk, planning inspector rules

A Government-appointed planning inspector has ruled that a defunct red phone box outside the Waterloo Action Centre can be used as a coffee kiosk, overturning Lambeth Council's decision to veto the proposal.

Waterloo phone box can become coffee kiosk, planning inspector rules

Lambeth Council has several times rejected proposals for retail use of grade II listed phone boxes around Waterloo, arguing that they should continue to be used for the purpose they were designed for.

An appeal against the council's latest decision concerning the phone box outside the Waterloo Action Centre in Baylis Road was considered by planning inspector Cullum Parker, whose decision was published last week.

Mr Parker wrote:

The proposal would see a currently unused historic red phone box used as a coffee shop. In reality, the proposals seek the use of the internal area for the siting of removable equipment to house a coffee machine and refuse area used in the kiosk by employees to make coffees for passing customers. The proposal does not necessarily seek any seating on the wide pavement area, nor does it seek any awnings or parasols or similar equipment to be sited on the pavement. If that was to occur, then they are other regulatory regimes which would likely consider such matters. 

I note the point made by the Council that the door being open when in use would partly erode the clean and distinct lines formed when the phone box is closed. However, it is clear that part of the operation of the phone box is that customers would open the door to enter and use the phone. Admittedly this would be of a shorter duration than usage as a phone box. Nevertheless, it is clear that the door is there to be used a such and therefore it is logical to expect it to be opened and closed regularly. 

In terms of the proposed use as a coffee shop I acknowledge the Council’s concerns that this would be an ahistorical use of the building. Ideally, the historical use as a phone box would reflect best the original intention of the building’s design. However, it is evident that use of the listed building for telecommunications is no longer considered necessary by phone providers given I have not been presented with any evidence of such. In the absence of such demand (which is not surprising given the dominance of mobile telephones) it makes sense to consider alternate uses for the heritage asset. The evidence before me gives examples of where the iconic ‘red telephone box’ has been used for alternate uses such as public libraries, salad bars, and other such uses. It is preferable that, in the absence of a telecommunications demand for the listed building other uses are found.

Mr Parker noted that he had received objections to the appeal proposal - including from the trustees of the Waterloo Action Centre - but did not deem them to merit refusal of planning permission.

Read the decision in full:

Reference: APP/N5660/W/23/3334884
Tags: Planning & Development, Waterloo, Lambeth, Politics & local government, Food & drink

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