Phones taking over the streets

The Daily Telegraph

Wednesday 9 December 1998
By MARK SKELSEY

SYDNEY City Council appears to have ignored its own rules about "visual pollution" in the construction of more than 130 telephone booths carrying giant advertising panels, documents show.

The "telephone towers", 2.6m high and 1.3m wide, have been installed in CBD streets since last week.
Retail Traders Association executive director Bill Healey said yesterday he was surprised by the size and number of the towers.

He said one retailer in King St complained about one panel because it hindered pedestrian access and cut the line of sight from the street to his shop.

In King St, pedestrians on narrow footpaths are being forced to walk around the structures because of their width.

But in many other areas they were installed on the city's new, expanded footpaths.

The panels will be installed by advertising company JC Decaux Australia which is jointly owned by Sydney-based advertising company Manboom and parent French advertising company JC Decaux.

Media boss Kerry Packer, radio station owner John Singleton and developer Robert Whyte own Manboom.

According to original tender documents in April last year the telephone booths were to be "integrated mostly with items of street furniture such as bus shelters". Another paragraph in the tender information to interested companies said "60 per cent of bus shelters" should include either telephones or information kiosks, to limit the number of "stand-alone" structures.

One of the main objectives of the street furniture tender was to "reduce the visual and physical clutter on footways by integrating several items within each structure where appropriate". But of the new telephones to be installed in the city only 35 will be in bus shelters. Up to 132 will be "solo" structures, which many people regard as a blight on the streets.

The National Trust at its urban conservation technical committee meeting today will consider the issue of the placement of the towers outside some heritage buildings.

Sydney City Council will earn $30 million from advertising on street furniture structures. That will come through an $11 million up-front payment and $20 million to be paid over the life of the 20-year contract.
On its rates cards, distributed through the advertising industry, JC Decaux is asking for $400 a week for each panel.

Pedestrian Council of Australia spokesman Harold Scruby said it was important the structures did not impede pedestrians.

Australian Securities and Investment Commission records show the four directors of JC Decaux Australia are Jean-Lux Decaux, from French parent advertising company JC Decaux, Michael Millman, an executive with Manboom, Richard Turner, a director of Mr Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting company, and Angela Clark, who runs JC Decaux Australia.