Telephone boxes could be a thing of the past in the Ribble Valley after BT announced plans to wield the axe.
Rural communities fear they will lose the vital emergency lifeline after the company recommended removing 50 telephone boxes from the Ribble Valley after a “usage decline of 90 per cent” in the past decade.
Among those earmarked to face the chop is the famous phone box marking the Centre of the Kingdom in Dunsop Bridge.
The move has been criticised by Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans who said: “The impact on the Ribble Valley is hugely disproportionate.
“Coming as this does on top of the removal of Library Services and Children’s Centres by Lancashire County Council,the Ribble Valley is being made to suffer because it is a rural area this time by one of the large privatised utilities.
“There appears to be poor understanding by BT of the poor mobile phone reception that exists right across the Ribble Valley. There are many areas like the centre of Whalley, which are effectively wireless dead zones – and yet they are proposing removing all three call boxes in Whalley.”
Similar fears were voiced by Coun. Ged Mirfin, who has already raised the issue of the creaking nature of the telecommunications infrastructure across the Ribble Valley, especially mobile and broadband access. He stated: “This is all badly planned. The right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing at BT.”
Under the proposals, which will be discussed tonight by members of the Parish Councils’ Liaison Committee, communities would get the chance to “adopt a kiosk” and lose the phone service. Parish councils and charities could take the booths on for £1 and use them for other purposes.
Glenda Gill and Tony Bradshaw, who run Puddleducks Tea Room in Dunsop Bridge, said they were baffled why BT would unveil plans to remove the iconic village phone box, which has not only become a tourist attraction over the years, but is the 100,000th to be installed in the UK. Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes unveiled the phone box with a plaque announcing the picturesque village’s claim to fame in 1992.
Glenda said: “We have a landline and internet access, but it would be ludicrous to remove the iconic phone box. Every day we get tourists asking about the phone box and having their pictures taken next to it. It would be a major blow if BT decided to remove it.”
Responding, A BT spokesman said the 50 phone boxes are under review and will not necessarily all be removed: “BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90 per cent in the last decade, 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.
“In all instances 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.”