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Norfolk communities have 90 days to save their phone boxes

PUBLISHED: 09:33 26 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:19 26 October 2016

Plumstead resident Julie Brown outside the village's new defibrillator base with (from left): Plumstead 2000 chairman David Ramsbotham, East of England Ambulance Service community partnership manager Andrew Barlow and David Draper of Shocking Now! Picture: Karen Bethell

Plumstead resident Julie Brown outside the village's new defibrillator base with (from left): Plumstead 2000 chairman David Ramsbotham, East of England Ambulance Service community partnership manager Andrew Barlow and David Draper of Shocking Now! Picture: Karen Bethell

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An urgent call is today being made to stop hundreds of public telephones – many of them the classic red box – disappearing from the region’s towns and villages.

The villagers of St Margaret South Elmham have converted a phonebox into a swap box for books.

 From left, David Ritchie, Phillip Kidner and Bernard Duffield.

 Photo: Nick Butcher The villagers of St Margaret South Elmham have converted a phonebox into a swap box for books. From left, David Ritchie, Phillip Kidner and Bernard Duffield. Photo: Nick Butcher

Time is ticking, with BT poised to disconnect its least profitable payphones, both traditional and modern, across the region.

A series of 90-day consultations are being launched with the boxes on the brink of being removed.

The latest, in north Norfolk, could see 74 phone booths lost throughout the district.

Now campaigners are issuing a red alert urging communities across the county to “adopt a kiosk” and save this symbolic British icon.

Carmel Doolan with a petition to save the traditional phone box in Runham from being taken away. 
Photo: Nick Butcher Carmel Doolan with a petition to save the traditional phone box in Runham from being taken away. Photo: Nick Butcher

The scheme allows parish councils and local groups to acquire decommissioned red heritage call boxes for £1.

Former Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Norfolk chairman Ian Shepherd said: “Red phone boxes add massively to the interest in our villages in terms of heritage, so it is important to get local support for this initiative.

“Ideally there needs to be another use for phone boxes rather than just leaving them standing.

The red call box has been a symbol of British culture since the 1920s and communities have been coming up with innovative uses for them, despite no longer having a phone inside.

A petition has been started to save the traditional phone box in Runham from being taken away. 

Photo: Nick Butcher A petition has been started to save the traditional phone box in Runham from being taken away. Photo: Nick Butcher

In Overstrand, near Cromer, two phone kiosks have been adopted - one for an exhibition on local geology and the other as an information point.

Parish clerk June White said: “It has been very successful, with both boxes well used. Once you have it, you are responsible for cleaning and re-painting, but the costs are very low.”

The rise of the mobile phone means the payphones have been vanishing from streets up and down the country.

Written notification has been sent to district councils with parishes now having a matter of weeks to make the case for the boxes to remain as functioning phones or to rally together to adopt one of the red ‘heritage’ kiosks to turn them into a local asset.

Where the phone boxes could be removed

The phone boxes which could be removed are in:

Acle; Aylsham Beighton; Brundall; Buxton Cantley; Coltishall; Crostwick; Drayton; Foulsham; Freethorpe; Guestwick; Hellesdon; Hemblington; Horstead Lingwood; Little Plumstead; Marsham; Newton St Faith; Old Catton; Oulton; Rackheath; Reedham; Ringland; Salhouse; Spixworth; Sprowston; Strumpshaw; Swannington; Taverham; Thorpe St Andrew; Tuttington; Upton; Weston Longville

A BT spokesman said: “BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90pc in the last decade, we’ve continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed.

“As an alternative to removal, we will continue to actively promote the Adopt a Kiosk scheme to all councils whilst being committed to maintaining the payphones that remain.”

Anyone who wants to adopt a phone box should visit www.business.bt.com/phone-services/payphone-services/adopt-a-kiosk

Petition launched to save landmark

One under-threat phone box is in The Street, Runham, near Mautby, where the parish council has put forward a bid to buy the box without equipment for £1.

It comes after resident Carmel Doolan started a petition to save the box, as she found the notice it was to be removed stuck inside, where no one could see it.

Once she found the notice, there were only two days until the consultation deadline, but after contacting the parish council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council the deadline was extended.

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “BT has indicated that they sent the formal notification of their proposal on September 23 – but this has not yet been received by the council. In view of this and to ensure due process, the council has contacted BT to ask them to send again their formal notification, with the consultation process starting from the date this is received.”

Payphones could be disconnected

More than 550 telephone boxes could be disconnected across Norfolk, Suffolk and east Cambridgeshire following the BT review.

Factors taken into account include if there is a mobile phone signal in the locality and wider social lead.

Under Ofcom rules BT has to consult with the local authority to remove a payphone if there is not another within 400m.

Of the 74 telephone boxes set to disappear in north Norfolk 33 have not been used to make a call in the previous 12 months.

The number of boxes recommended for removal in each local government area are:

Broadland 56

Breckland 57

East Cambs 26

Fenland 16

Forest Heath 20

Great Yarmouth 19

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk 97

Mid Suffolk 47

North Norfolk 74

Norwich District 17

South Norfolk 67

Suffolk Coastal 69

Waveney 38

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2 comments

  • Typo - badger!

    Report this comment

    Jono

    Wednesday, October 26, 2016

  • What the article fails to mention is that BT, as a receiver of public funds, has an obligation to provide services like this for all. OFCOM rules mean that if a parish council vetos the removal of a phone box, BT has no right to do so. It only takes one emergency for these phone boxes to serve a purpose. In North Norfolk of the 74 set to be removed, I don't know any of those locations which are well served by all of the main phone networks (if any). BT says it's removing phone boxes because most of the country now has 3G and 4G - unfortunately it's not taken into account much of Norfolk is without it! Time for people to badge their local parish council to take action.

    Report this comment

    Jono

    Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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