Reprieve sought for nine West Norfolk phone boxes

Nine West Norfolk phone boxes should be retained where communities want them, say planners
Nine West Norfolk phone boxes should be retained where communities want them, say planners
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Nine of West Norfolk’s public phone boxes should be maintained despite proposals to remove them, council officials say.

Community leaders in Burnham Overy Staithe, Docking, Old Hunstanton, Runcton Holme, Sedgeford, Walpole St Peter and West Walton have opposed BT’s plans to remove payphones from their areas.

And their concerns have now been backed in a report to the West Norfolk Council planning committee, which will review the issue on Monday.

It said: “It is a consideration that the presence of a working call box provides insurance that there is a last resort form of communication available if needed.”

Proposals to remove 97 phone boxes, for which BT said there was no longer a “social need”, were first outlined last autumn. A consultation on the plans continues until January 20.

Planning officials have recommendedno objection to the removal of 77 kiosks, where local parish councils either haven’t objected or have failed to respond to the consultation.

Proposals have also been put forward to adopt 11 others, after the payment of a nominal £1 fee, for alternative usage, once the phone equipment is removed.

BT claims the overall used of payphones has fallen by more than 90 per cent in the last 10 years and their need is further reduced by the ability to contact emergency services from a mobile phone, even when there is no credit on it.

But the parishes which have objected say the threatened boxes are in areas of poor mobile phone coverage and offer vital emergency availability.

The parish council in Runcton Holme said one of its kiosks was near a known accident blackspot on the A10 and in an area with poor coverage on all mobile networks.

And Old Hunstanton’s parish council said its box was next to the village’s defibrilator, which increased the possibility of emergency use.

The report accepted BT were concerned about the costs of maintaining phone boxes whose use was in decline.

But it added: “It is a fact that villages in the borough are often remote from the emergency and other services, where there are potential personal safety issues.

“Mobile networks are not always available in some areas and it is important to consider that even a small amount of calls can mean that a ‘useful public service’ is being provided.”