Phone box to coffee shop plans approved for historic city centre street

This phone box in Tombland, Norwich, is to be used as a tiny shop selling cacti.

This phone box in Tombland, Norwich, is to be used as a tiny shop selling cacti from £3 starter plants to collectibles worth more than £100. - Credit: Daniel Moxon

Two vacant traditional phone boxes will be converted into mini coffee shops after plans were given the green light. 

The Tombland BT kiosks are going to be transformed into small outlets selling hot drinks and ice cream as well as other products suited to street sale. 

RKC Estates' planning application for the kiosks were approved by Norwich City Council at the beginning of June. 

The successful applicant is a Sussex-based national retail chain operating out of unused telephone boxes.

Architects Bentleys and Carter submitted the plans to the city council on behalf of RKC Estates.

This phone box in Tombland, Norwich, is to be used as a tiny shop selling cacti.

Plans for coffee to be sold from disused phone boxes in Tombland have been approved - Credit: Daniel Moxon

Paul Carter, director of Bentleys and Carter, said the scheme has already been successfully rolled out across the country including in cities such as London, Brighton and Edinburgh.

He added: "The last 20 months and unprecedented circumstances caused by the global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way traditional retail and hospitality works.

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"Finding new and innovative ways to create businesses and employment is the principle of the phone box conversion.

"It is a model that has worked across the country and has never been so relevant and appropriate.

"The conversion creates a small business utilising an existing space in a great location for footfall offering a convenient and safe trading space." 

The Norwich phone box in Tombland which could so be converted into a miniature office for travelling

County councillor Ed Colman next to one of the telephone boxes in Tombland - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Both of the boxes are listed so the applicant said "careful consideration" was given to preserve the boxes and their relationship to the surrounding area.

The scale of the phone boxes will not be changed by the plans. 

They will still remain painted in BT phone box red and a maintenance programme will see the kiosks fully refurbished every two years.

The K2 kiosk was Britain's first red telephone box. It was the winning design from a 1924 competition to find the design for a national kiosk.

Historic England figures show there were 1,700 examples of the K2 installed between 1926 and 1935.

The total number of surviving K2 kiosks in the UK is now around 220. 

Figures from Bentleys and Carter state more than 2,000 phone boxes have been adapted for different uses to suit the 21st century.

The Tombland units will be run within normal business hours.