Up to 75 Shropshire payphone boxes at risk of removal as BT consultation launched

Up to 75 payphones across Shropshire could be lost if new proposals go ahead.

A Shropshire payphone box
A Shropshire payphone box

BT wants to remove little-used payphones from use, citing an increase in use of mobile phones.

Nearly half of the kiosks targeted have not been used in at least a year. Sites have been chosen in Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Craven Arms, Cleobury Mortimer, Bishop's Castle, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Ellesmere, Church Stretton, Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock and Montgomery.

Residents in those areas are being encouraged to adopt a phone box and turn it into something useful for the community.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet for communities, said: "This is a real opportunity for local communities to think about the usage of their payphones, and whether they need to remain operational to serve residents and visitors, or whether the community would perhaps find benefit from their removal, or from adopting them for a community use such as as defibrillator storage.

“We are aware that there are continuing concerns around poor mobile phone coverage in Shropshire, and would urge local town councils and parish councils, and any interested members of the community, to let us know if this is an issue in your area, or if there are other reasons we should object to removal of the payphones."

The two-stage process will see the council’s draft decision in each case released to the public after 42 days. A further month will be given for local people to have their say following that ahead of a final view being submitted on December 19.

The council said its default starting position was to object to the removal of phone boxes in rural areas unless local feedback suggested otherwise. That was due to concern over emergency access and mobile phone coverage.

Councillor David Turner, who represents Much Wenlock on Shropshire Council, said a phone box in Homer should be used for a defibrillator. Only two calls were made from the phone box in the last year.

"If there is no justification for retaining the telephone, the kiosk could be retained by the Town Council," he said.

"In other communities they’ve been used as book and plant exchanges and, increasingly, to house defibrillators. These life-saving devices have saved the lives of many who have suffered cardiac arrest.

"At its September meeting I mentioned that we now have a fourth defibrillator in town, thanks to Much Wenlock Town Council. Apart from the school, the three are all within 250 yards of each other – at Pinefields Close, the fire station and the Corn Exchange.

Outcry

"Homer, with 100 properties, does not have easy access to these lifesaving devices. I urged that early consideration is given to provision of defibrillators to these outlying settlements – where residents pay council tax to Much Wenlock."

Roger Smith, mayor of Market Drayton, said he did not agree with the plans, but understood why the phone boxes were being removed.

"We had this issue a while back and I do remember it caused an outcry of a certain extent," he said. "In this day and age, with all the other ways people are community, it's something that's going to happen whether we like it or not.

"I feel for people in the outlying villages. I feel for people in the outlying villages, where people might not have the oppotunity to contact people to help them urgently.

"It's a difficult one. I wouldn't agree with it, but it all boils down to usage."

Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow North on Shropshire Council, said: ""Payphones are still important. The assumption that everybody has a mobile phone that's working and can be topped up, and that the signal is working, is a big one.

"There will be fewer, but we must ensure we keep some key phone kiosks."

Phil Gillam, mayor of Shrewsbury, said: "I've always loved the traditional red telephone boxes, but truth be told a lot of them were replaced years ago by the steel and glass kiosks, which I have no particular affection for.

"I'm sure that there are statistics are available that prove whether particular kiosks are used, and if it is the case they're simply not used there's no point in them being there.

"In some places, kiosks are used to house defibrillators which is a great idea. In other areas, where appropriate, they have become mini-libraries where people can exchange books. That's a really sweet idea that may work in some areas and not in others.

"If they could be reused in some creative way that would be great. Nowadays everybody has a mobile phone, and there isn't much call for telephone kiosks."

For a full list of affected phone boxes visit shropshire.gov.uk/shropshire-council/bt-payphones

Email lois.dale@shropshire.gov.uk to offer feedback

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