High tech street hub plan for Oswestry thrown out because of 'harm to conservation area'

Plans for a high-tech information 'street hub' in Oswestry have been rejected because the council believes that having it would harm the town's conservation area - which includes a Wetherspoons pub and a post office.

Willow Street in Oswestry. Picture: Google
Willow Street in Oswestry. Picture: Google

A Shropshire Council committee was split between those who saw the BT Street Hubs as necessary for technological progress and those who thought the proposal to replace a battered phone box in Willow Street would be too much for the area to take.

Members at Tuesday's meeting of the council's Northern Planning Committee were told that Willow Street has a number of listed buildings, including Admiral Taverns's Boar's Head pub, and the proposed hub is in the Oswestry Conservation Area.

Council officers, proposing that the plan be thrown out, said the hub would be 2.960 metres (9.7ft) high by 1.236 metres (4 ft) wide and 0.350 metres (1.14ft) deep.

It would have a low-energy LED static digital display screen on both sides each measuring 1.670 metres (5.48 ft) high and 0.95 metres (3.11ft) wide. The hubs also offer access to local council services, national charities for support, the BT phone book, local weather, information and wayfinding.

Councillor Mike Isherwood (Oswestry West) said the hub could bring benefits to the town including public Wi-Fi and secure USB ports for rapid device charging.

"Damage to the conservation area was done decades ago," he said. "The buildings there are hardly stately homes."

He said in his opinion the benefits to the public of replacing a "hideous old phone box" would outweigh the harms to the conservation area and he supported them. Others disagreed, saying the hub would make the conservation area even worse.

"This is the way forward," he added. "If we do not allow them in front of fairly ugly 60s and 70s buildings where are we going to allow them?

"It could be a lifesaver for someone if they run out of charge."

Llanymynech councillor Vince Hunt said he thought that the post office and the Wilfred Owen Wetherspoons pub are "ugly buildings" but added that this did not take them off the historic list.

"They are still historical and set within the conservation area but I am not dead set against them. I would be prepared to support them in the right place."

He added that they did not need to be "one size fits all".

Council officers, in recommending refusal, said the relatively large and tall structure "would have a harmful impact on the street scene and conservation area".

Councillors voted by seven votes to four to reject the proposal.

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