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How do you camouflage a street cabinet?
Tuesday 23 October 2012 14:06:25 by Andrew Ferguson

The situation with regards to Openreach and others adding more telecoms infrastructure into areas is an on going one, and with changes to planning rules underway to make roll-out simpler underway it is enlightening to see what the House of Lords has to say on the matter.

Lord Howarth of Newport asked the following question in the House of Lords, "To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have so far received about their plan to allow broadband street cabinets to be installed without the prior approval of local planning authorities.". This received responses from a mixture but the response from Viscount Younger of Leckie is worth reproduction.

"I can understand the noble Lord's concerns. However, the changes to the formal planning process do not mean that broadband providers have carte blanche to install street cabinets or poles wherever or whenever it suits them. They must still notify planning authorities of their siting plans and consider requests for changes to be made. In exceptional circumstances, planning authorities can remove permitted rights to develop by using an Article 4 direction. The main broadband suppliers have agreed to develop a code of practice with DCMS whereby the siting of cabinets must have regard to proximity to any existing street furniture, minimising the visual impact and of course ensuring optimum safety on the streets. Sensitivity to locals is the byword, with planning and assessment made in advance."

Viscount Younger of Leckie, in the House of Lords

There was some consternation at the size of the new FTTC cabinets, but this was soothed with the news that there are plans afoot to camouflage them, and even the idea of holding a design competition to produce something less perfunctory.

While Openreach has deployed around 30,000 FTTC cabinets already. it seems many in the House of Lords have not seen them, or it may be that they live in areas where councils are rejecting applications. Cabinet PCP 023 on the junction of Acacia Road and Woronzow Road close to Regents Park had its planning application rejected in July 2011 after an original application in May 2011, and the postcode appears to be still waiting for a cabinet to be delivered. The application was rejected because of concerns of damage to the roots of a Lime tree, and the cabinet may reduce the security of a property.

In theory a full fibre deployment that requires only passive infrastructure would overcome many objections to new street cabinets, but there is still the issue of pavement chambers to house optical splitters, in addition to the not insignificant additional costs of running the fibres to points close to every property.


Posted by rtho782 over 4 years ago
If I had my way, BT would be able to assume consent after publishing plans, objections would have to be public, so everyone knows who is saying no, and if an objection stopped a deployment, that cab would just be left forever without fibre until the residents deployed it themselves.

These people will be back in a couple of years complaining about slow broadband.
Posted by finaldest over 4 years ago
Where a cabinet is not suitable, Why not install in a trench.
Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
If someone writes and objects to planning then it is public already!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
As for a trench, given the foots for the cabinet were going to interfere with tree roots, a larger trench based setup would impact even more.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
WW1 dazzler paint, then the NIMBY's won't be able to gets it position to complain about it.
Posted by Callumpy over 4 years ago
I've seen some of the cabs have been getting BT adverts stuck all over them, thats definitely not the right way to camouflage them.
Posted by tthom over 4 years ago
Message for BT when you finally or ever grt fttx in my exchange you can put a box in my garden to bypass those planning laws (if possible) so i can get fttx :-)
Posted by Spectre_01 over 4 years ago
@ otester - like it, masking the range, heading and speed of the FTTC cab should make it tough for the Gerry's.

@ Callumpy, the decals for FTTC cabs in sensitive areas are green & black if used. The full colour ones you see should only be used in non-conservation areas.
Posted by timmay over 4 years ago
A. They get covered in Graffiti and then blend in with the wall behind and the other cabinet...
Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago

I second that.

BT can install a cab in my garden, and I'll pop a hedge in front of it.
Posted by mabibby over 4 years ago
Are we creating work for someone in Whitehall to do?

I get so bored of these arguments... it's okay when it suits. Like when the Olympics is on or there's a environmental directive to install ugly metal fences or paths in residential areas.

Why can't we just ask all the do-gooders to run along and all the local old farts who don't appreciate that appreciate the benefit to eat some "sheet" :)
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
Clear they understand the issue:

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I do not believe there is scope for running a competition because so many of these street cabinets are being rolled out. However, I again reassure the House that the cabinets will be and must be sensitively sited. Although they are on the large side-I have already mentioned the camouflaging-in some cases there will be overhead cabling, some of which, instead of going into the street cabinets, can be placed inside church steeples, which is a good use for churches.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago

and on location:

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I would like to reassure the noble Lord that, although it is difficult to describe precisely where they will be, they will be positioned where they need to be positioned around the UK.
Posted by uniquename over 4 years ago
@ Somerset
When I read the Hansard article yesterday I was greatly amused by the last bit of your quote.

"in some cases there will be overhead cabling, some of which, instead of going into the street cabinets, can be placed inside church steeples, which is a good use for churches".
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago

Someone had heard of the WiFi in steeple projects and probably got the wires crossed.
Posted by uniquename over 4 years ago
I noticed that as well Andrew, amusing in its own right, but what struck me was the implication that there wasn't already a good use for churches.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago

Are you suggesting they're going to put these cabinets in conservation, I mean concentration camps if they capture them?
Posted by eviemai2011 over 4 years ago
I think the company doing the project with the church steeples is cambium networks. They won the next gen awards this month.
The UG splitters are designed to fit into a 2 box so if it goes FTTP in them areas. There's also a few other deployment technologies bypassing a street cabinet that works but knowing how BT operate it will be a couple of years to get them passed and approved!!
Posted by ash76 over 4 years ago
It took no more than a week for the new cabinet in my street to become a a work of modern art. It now blends into the wooden fences and white walls which are similarly covered.
At least they have not gone the same way as the machines in the Barnet Council car parks. An sculptor has taken a hammer an chisel to these which have the wires artistically hanging out.

The car parks are now hardly used at all as to get a ticket you need to register your car, use a smart phone and walk a mile to get a ticket from another machine in some other part of town.
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
Maybe their Lordships live in rural areas that have not had any FTTC cabinets installed yet and maybe won't be for some years yet! Hence they are unlikely to have them in their local area and many people avoid going into towns anyway, and perhaps they travel by train and don't look at the blur of passing cabinets? Not everyone lives in urban areas.
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