A plan to illuminate a dozen telephone call boxes recently installed in Swindon town centre has been rejected by planners at Euclid Street.

The 12 black boxes were put in central locations through the town in 2017 by the company Infocus Public Networks - but its recent application to be allowed to illuminate the adverts on the back has been turned down, for every box, amid concerns that the call boxes are merely a ruse to get round planning laws on adverts.

The decision made by planning officers of Swindon Borough Council on all the applications, which would have seen the boxes illuminated in two locations each in The Parade and Regent Street, and in Bridge Street, Canal Street and Havelock Street said: “The proposed advertisement would detract from the visual amenities of the area and the quality of the public realm, by virtue of its siting, size, illumination and prominence, creating an intrusive visual statement within the pedestrianised shopping street which contributes to a sense of visual clutter.”

It adds that officers don’t believe that use as a call box is the sole purpose of the kiosks: “The payphone kiosk upon which the proposed advertisement would be displayed would be unlawful, requiring planning permission in itself due to serving a ‘dual purpose’, failing to be used solely for the purpose of the operators communication networks.”

Under previous rules, the boxes were put up using ‘permitted development’ regulations, but that ‘loophole’ has no been closed after concerns were raised in Swindon and across the country about such boxes.

Councillors are pleased with the decision.

Coun Dale Heenan, the Conservative cabinet member for the town centre said: “The high street is changing, and barely a week goes by without another major retailer announcing problems. But this does not mean we should allow Swindon to be turned into some kind of Piccadilly Circus which these garish electronic billboards, dressed up as phone boxes, would mean. We must take a tough line on all inappropriate development, so I am pleased planning officers have refused to accept the ad company's application, and have used a recent high court judgement to add more weight to our argument. The company is simply trying to get around the rules by claiming its phone boxes don't require planning permission. They do. It will be an interesting test case for the Planning Inspectorate if the ad company decides to appeal. But if it has any sense and wants to avoid risking its entire business model then I suggest it accepts the decision"

His Labour counterpart Coun Jane Milner-Barry said: “I’m delighted. the damage has been done already and they do look dreadful. But at least they won’t become any more of an intrusion, and there won’t be any more, it won’t get worse.

“I hope the council can find a way of removing the boxes already installed because I think everyone is agreed they’re not wanted.”

Infocus Public Networks shares a head office address in Brentford, west London with JC Decaux, self-described as the largest outdoor advertising company in the world.

The company declined to comment on the matter.