27/09/2019 - Permalink

Consultation begins about removing 75 BT payphones across county

Related topics: Community / Partner organisations

Shropshire Council has received a listing from BT of 75 payphones in the Shropshire Council area that BT propose to permanently remove from service. BT has an obligation to consult with Shropshire Council with regard to the proposed removals.  A formal 90-day consultation has therefore commenced with the council, as set out by Ofcom.

A BT payphone in Shropshire

A payphone box in Shropshire

During the 90-day period, Shropshire Council’s job as the local planning authority is to seek views from local town councils and parish councils and to include any views from local councillors, residents, policing teams etc, in order to help it to reach a decision in each case as to whether to:-

  • Consent to removal of the service and kiosk
  • Object in order to keep the service operational, or
  • Consent to removal of the telephony, and retention of the kiosk itself where the local town council or parish council wish to adopt.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet for communities, place planning and regulatory services, 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. These reasons could be: where the payphone is at a known accident blackspot, where the area is isolated, or where the payphone is seen as fulfilling a social need – eg perhaps it is by a railway station, or provides a way to access services.

“Please take a look at the listing, and the further guidance we are making available in our online resources shortly, and get in touch with your views. We are pleased BT has extended the consultation deadline overall to Thursday 19 December 2019. The first phase of the consultation will greatly help us in reaching an initial view, and closes on Friday 8 November 2019 at 4pm.“

This is a two-stage process, with an announcement of the council’s draft decision in each case after the initial minimum 42-day phase; and a further minimum one month period for local views to be sought, before a final view is reached by the council ahead of the cut off date of Thursday 19 December 2019.

iconic red BT phone box

The initial views are known as the First Notification, which will be submitted to the relevant Government department in line with the formal direction from Ofcom. There will then be a minimum one month consultation period for any further comments on the draft view, taking us up to Monday 16 December 2019 4pm. After this, the council will issue a Final Notification of the decision of Shropshire Council with regard to the 75 payphones, which will also go to the relevant Government department as well as to BT by 4pm on the closing date, 19 December 2019.

For more details, please click the link to see the listing and other resources on the website at https://shropshire.gov.uk/shropshire-council/bt-payphones/

For feedback on your views, please contact the lead co-ordinating officer Lois Dale, via email, to ensure that we have a written record of these views.  lois.dale@shropshire.gov.uk

Further information

The stated starting position of Shropshire Council, with our predominantly rural county with a dispersed population, is to Object to removal of telephony at kiosks unless local feedback suggests otherwise: due to concerns over things like emergency access, physical access where the next nearest payphone may be some distance away for those with mobility problems, and concerns over consistency and quality of mobile phone coverage.

Equally, the council is looking to consider factors in favour of removal of the payphone where the views of the local community are that its use is no longer warranted, or that adoption would be a better option in that area, perhaps for defibrillator storage, or that there has been repeated vandalism or misuse of the kiosk.

The council is adding further detail to the 2019 listing to include reference as to whether it was also on the previous 2017 list, so that there will be details for local communities not only on previous usage but also on previous rationale for retention. This will shortly be made available on the council website at https://shropshire.gov.uk/shropshire-council/bt-payphones/

The date of the poster in a local kiosk is the date that the poster was placed, rather than the commencement date of the 90-day formal consultation that they are required to have with us. BT have added this to the listing.

The listing will also go to clerks for all town councils and parish councils. They have previously been alerted that this is coming up, and have been asked to have it as an item on council meetings. Online resources include details about what to do if a local town council or parish council wants to think about adopting the kiosk for a use such as a defibrillator store. Individuals are not permitted to adopt kiosks, but they can also be adopted by community organisations, and we will include the criteria on that.

We will also include advice from the historic environment team about what can or cannot be done if the kiosk is a listed structure, and how to ask if there are queries about conservation considerations.