28 Sep 2008

Should we save our telephone kiosks?

Back in June we heard 51 telephone kiosks were under threat of closure in Stroud District (see my blog here). In our area two boxes face the axe - see more here - Stroud District have formally objected to all closures - now we see BT have come up with a scheme that proposes that Council's can adopt or sponsor boxes - but at what cost?

Cartoon: from local scribbler Russ specially for this blogsite and photo below of Ludlow Green box - sometimes hard to see when all the trees nearby grow around it!

The celebrated K6 red telephone boxes were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (who designed Battersea and Bankside power stations in London) to mark George V's silver jubilee. A later version was designed to celebrate the Queen's coronation in 1953. The difference between the two is the crown above the door- George V's is the flat-ish Tudor crown, the Coronation version has the more upright crown that the Queen wears. The red boxes first appeared in 1936 and within a few years there were some 70,000 boxes.

Privatisation, the establishment of BT in 1984 and the invention of mobile phones has seen that figure cut to 12,747 and now 4,619 of those are under threat.

We have not heard yet what the Secretary of State thinks about Stroud's objections - and indeed don't know when the SoS will be making a decision on this matter which is likely not to be imminent and possibly after the deadline for applications for adoption/sponsorship.

Stroud's reasons for objection in principal to the removal of the public phones is mainly because:

· In the district BT introduced ‘card only’ phones in many areas thereby restricting their use
· Cards cannot generally be purchased in these areas
· Mobile phone ownership is lower in rural areas
· Mobile phone coverage is not absolute

For each of the sites identified evidence has been provided to substantiate an objection. As noted before the details of objections for our two phones are:
1. 01453 764946 Ludlow Green, Ruscombe, Stroud GL6 6DG Object: Historic significance
2. 01453 763370 At Westrip Farm, Westrip, Stroud GL6 6HA Object: Close proximity to social housing – highly unlikely to afford phones, 200m from Cotswold Way – assists walkers, Historic significance.

It now seems there are two options:

1. The adoption scheme where the local authority (it can be any LA in the area) pays £1 and takes ownership of the box and is responsible for future upkeep and maintenance. The telephone equipment is removed so the box is essentially a heritage feature in the local community.
2. A sponsorship scheme where the LA pays £500 annually BT as a contribution to the running costs to retain the service. It also appears that the LA will need to pick up the electricity cost of about £17 pa.

BT has now posted details of the scheme on their web site and there is a section on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s). Apparently the two programmes that have been introduced by BT are not intended to undermine the current consultation process but to give local authorities the option to consider alternative options if, for instance, they are aware that a particular red call box is not used but they would like to keep it for heritage reasons (adopt a kiosk) or where another call box may be used little, but the local authority are keen to keep it and would like to contribute to the up keep of it (sponsor a kiosk).

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish are already discussing the adopt a telephone box scheme in the event of a closure threat. The current usage of the Ludlow Green box is well under a hundred calls a year, so there will need to be serious discussions about how much money could be used to support such a resource. I have still only had one representation calling for boxes to be saved but it is often after we loose a community resource we miss it - we are all the poorer.

1 comment:

Russ said...

perhaps they should all be fitted out with solar panels, and have a radio phone system which was only for emergency phone calls, plus local businesses like taxis, and pizzas; the service could then be paid for by the local authority, for emergency numbers and local business's for their numbers; all costs being free.