Friday, 11 November 2016 15:23

Plan to withdraw red phone boxes

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Plan to withdraw red phone boxes

RURAL communities are being urged to adopt their local red phone box – or face the possibility of its removal.

Out of 46,000 working public payphone kiosks on the streets of the UK, around 8,000 are traditional red phone boxes.

But the advent of mobile phones means many phone boxes are seldom used, if at all.

BT is currently consulting on proposals to remove a number of kiosks – including many that haven't been used at all during the past year.

But towns and villages across the country also have the opportunity to preserve their local phone box for just a £1 under BT's Adopt a Kiosk scheme.

More than 3,500 kiosks have been adopted and transformed into a variety of new uses since the Adopt a Kiosk scheme was introduced in 2008.

Some decommissioned phone boxes have been fitted with life-saving defibrillation machines. Others have been turned into art galleries, mini libraries or information centres.

In Shropshire, for example, the local council is appealing to residents, town councils and parish councils to have their say on a proposal by BT to remove 214 public payphones.

As the local planning authority, the council has the right to object to the removal of the telephony service and kiosk in any particular area.

It can also consent to removal of the telephony service, while keeping the kiosk, or consent to the permanent removal of the telephony service and the kiosk.

Rural Services Network chairman and Shropshire Council's cabinet member for rural services and communities Cecilia Motley, said it was important for local people to have their say.

"In addition to the advantages of having a working pay phone, many communities consider their phone box as a landmark and something they wish to preserve.

"We know there are payphones where there have not been any calls made in the last 12 months, or indeed since the last time BT asked us about this in 2014.

"Nonetheless, some areas have a real social need to keep the telephony, particularly if mobile/broadband signals are very poor, or for example, in accident blackspots.

Whether communities wished to retain a telephony service, adopt the physical kiosk, or see it removed, anyone with an interest should speak up as part of the consultation.

Councillor Motley said: "Payphones that have been saved as a result of previous consultations may well be under threat once more, so it is important to engage with us again."

While some communities would find a payphone of little or no use to them, careful consideration was important because removal of the facility would be permanent.

"Even if there is no public support to retain the telephony, there is the option to retain and reuse the kiosk," said Councillor Motley.

BT said it had always acknowledged that the company had a duty of care to safeguard what was a iconic fixture in many communities.

BT head of payphones Neil Scoresby said: "The success of the Adopt a Kiosk scheme has shown the huge amount of affection communities throughout the UK have for red phone boxes."

For more details about Adopt a Kiosk, click here.

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