A DOZEN newly-installed black telephone boxes that have sprung up in Swindon town centre have been condemned as an unnecessary eyesore.

Shoppers questioned the need for the facilities in the age of smart devices and iPhones, with the kiosks being likened to “miniature steel prisons”.

At least one of the boxes, which will apparently carry advertising when they are up and running, was not yet live last week.

Coun Garry Perkins, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “There are around a dozen or so of these awful black metal frames all over the town centre. At the moment they are just steel frames but they are going to be funded by advertising taking the guise of phone boxes.

"The company doesn’t need planning permission because they have found a loophole in planning law by putting them in old red phone sites under the Telecommuncations Act.

"They are going up in sites which were originally provided by the Government in the country’s interest back before mobile phones and there’s nothing can be done about it.”

Infocus Public Networks Ltd, an electronic communications network provider, put forward plans for kiosks at 15 sites in June 2013, which were rejected by Swindon Borough Council.

However, the company appealed against the decision and a planning inspector overturned the local authority’s decision, allowing most of the kiosks to go ahead.

A spokesman for the council said: “As Swindon’s priority regeneration area, the council has levered significant investment in Swindon town centre to improve the quality of the public realm and encourage the town centre economy.

“In addition, the council has been implementing measures to reduce street clutter in the town centre, and considered that the payphone kiosks would hamper efforts to improve the town centre public realm.

“Therefore it refused the applications in August 2013 and Infocus Public Networks Ltd lodged an appeal.”

However in December 2015 the inspector allowed 12 of the sites to go ahead.

The spokesman added: “In May 2017 Infocus Public Networks Ltd advised the council of their intention to install the kiosks at the 12 sites.

"The council has now exhausted all options in resisting these remaining kiosks, which are now being installed.”

Infocus Public Networks Ltd did not respond to requests for a comment.

However in 2013 the electronic communications provider said the modern boxes would be wider than the older kiosks to enable wheelchair access, and open at one side to deter potential crime.

Managing director Derek Parkin said in a planning application: “Despite the growth in the use of mobile phones, there remains a need for public payphones, particularly for minorities within urban communities.

“Ethnic minorities rely on public payphones to contact relatives overseas and many tourists use public payphones to make calls, using international telephone cards.”