Consultation set for future of phone boxes

Members of Felton WI converted the local phone box to an information point aiming to help visitors to the village.
Picture by Jane Coltman
Members of Felton WI converted the local phone box to an information point aiming to help visitors to the village. Picture by Jane Coltman

Residents in rural communities are being urged to make their voices heard to safeguard vital phone boxes, after proposals to remove various booths around the county.

BT is due to consult on ‘183 little-used payphones’ across Northumberland and plans to remove kiosks which are not needed.

However, the company says that payphones will remain in situ where objections are received. The 90-day consultation process begins tomorrow and notices have gone up in the under-threat phone boxes.

Ingram, Kirknewton, Bolton, Belford and Rock are some of the locations where booths are earmarked for closure. County councillor Glen Sanderson stressed the need for residents to make representations, where there is a need for booths to stay.

He said: “In isolated communities, these phone boxes provide a lifeline, where there is no mobile-phone signal and where, perhaps older people don’t have access to mobile phones. Where this is the case, I hope local people make their voice heard.”

A BT spokeswoman said: “BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining, we’ve continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed. Any removal of payphones is carried out in strict adherence to the Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities.

“Where there’s no other payphone within 400 metres, we’ll ask for consent from the local authority to remove the payphone. Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone. As an alternative to removal, we will continue to actively promote our Adopt a Kiosk scheme to all councils whilst being committed to maintaining the payphones that remain.”

Northumberland County Council’s deputy leader Dave Ledger said: “We have the opportunity to influence the retention of any of the telephone boxes earmarked for closure.

“We will consult with county councillors and parish/town councils on whether any of the earmarked sites should be kept, consulting again after developing the council’s view to come to a final decision.”