A DOZEN telephone boxes that have sprung up around Swindon over the past year have been condemned as “Trojan” structures designed to sell advertising.

The black-framed kiosks received an overwhelmingly sceptical response from shoppers after a number were erected in and around the town centre last summer.

Swindon Council had tried to block the installations but the company behind the booths successfully appealed to a planning inspector.

Nationally, applications for “trojan” phone boxes are up by a total of 927 per cent across council regions, according to new research by the Local Government Association (LGA).

A sample of 12 areas found that Newcastle had the highest amount, followed by Kensington & Chelsea and then Birmingham.

Coun Martin Tett, planning spokesman for the LGA, said: “The rise of the smartphone and digital age has seen the telephone box become a largely obsolete relic of a bygone era.

“While there is still a limited need for some telephone boxes in our town centres and cities, for example for emergencies, the number of applications councils have seen is simply staggering. Companies are exploiting a loophole in the law to allow what is tantamount to Trojan telephone boxes being used as advertising spaces rather than the original purpose of providing a place for people to use a phone.

“As a result, pedestrians are being bombarded with a series of eyesores that blight the public highway. Councils are currently powerless to act, so we want the Government to overturn the existing out-of-date legislation and give local authorities the ability to take action where this is an issue.”

Though the sample of local authorities did not include Swindon, the borough waged a long-running battle to prevent the booths appearing in the town centre.

Applications were refused by the council in 2013 but by May last year Infocus Public Networks Ltd, an electronic communications network provider, had won permission to begin installing 12 of the kiosks. None of the booths in the central pedestrianised shopping streets is currently displaying advertising, though the company has used side panels in other towns and cities to feature prominent marketing.

On Thursday the Swindon kiosks were asking for change in dollars and one was not working.

Infocus has not replied to requests for comment.

However, in 2013 the company said the boxes would be wider than traditional designs to enable wheelchair access, and open at one side to deter potential crime.

Its website shows disabled people using the kiosks and says they are solar-powered, have zero carbon footprint and the company is licensed by communications regulator Ofcom.

Managing director Derek Parkin has 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.”