BT HAS been ordered to remove disused street cabinets next to the River Esk after it was revealed three had been built without planning permission.

The firm’s digital network arm Openreach has apologised after it applied for retrospective planning permission for a new cabinet which appeared on Eskside West, Musselburgh.

The cabinet, which was installed just metres from two older ones, appeared within weeks of a planning application being lodged but before any consent was given.

East Lothian Council discovered that the two older cabinets, which were installed in 1991 and 2012, did not have planning permission either.

At a meeting of the council’s planning committee, councillors agreed to give the new cabinet planning permission but added an amendment insisting ‘redundant’ cabinets be removed.

Keith Dingwall, the council’s service manager for planning, also agreed to contact telecommunication companies stressing the need to consult with planning officers ahead of such planning applications.

A spokesperson for Openreach said that the first cabinet on the site housed copper phone lines while the most recent two connected it to superfast fibre broadband and needed to be near the original.

They said: “The first two cabinets were installed in November 1991 and January 2012. While we’re unable to access historic planning records, we’re seeking further clarification from the council.The new cabinet was needed to extend superfast broadband services to more local households.

“We applied for planning permission on September 11. Due to a clerical error, our contractors installed the cabinet on October 23, while the application was still in progress. When we became aware, we went to see the council and apologised. We were advised to apply for retrospective permission, which has now been granted. We’re sorry for the error.”

The planning committee unanimously approved planning permission for the new cabinet alongside the amendment.

A council spokesperson said: “We will be writing to companies to remind them of the need to discuss proposals with planning officials and seek planning permission for any works ahead of commencement.

“The commitment to improving access to technology should not be at the expense of adherence to due planning process.”