24/02/2020 - Permalink

BT to retain some payphones in Shropshire that were proposed for removal

Related topics: Community / Partner organisations

Shropshire Council is pleased to advise that confirmation has been received from BT with regard to next steps for the 75 payphones in the Shropshire area that BT proposed to permanently remove from service.

There were 49 across the county for which Shropshire Council objected to removal of the operational telephony, following the feedback received from local communities and town and parish councils. BT advises that there are no plans to appeal against any of the objections, which means that these 49 will remain in service.

This follows on from Shropshire Council issuing its final view and Final Notice after a formal 90-day consultation period on all 75, as set out by Ofcom, which concluded just before Christmas 2019. BT had an obligation to consult with Shropshire Council with regard to the proposed removals.

The number for which the council’s final view was to consent to removal of the service and the kiosk stood at 14, with a further 12 where the local community wishes to adopt the kiosk. Contact details of the parish councils and town councils who indicated that they wanted to adopt their kiosks have been sent to BT, in order for these applications to then progress.

Lois Dale, Shropshire Council’s rurality and equalities specialist, said: 

“We are really pleased to see these 49 public payphones retained in service, to help residents and visitors alike, in locations across our rural county. We are equally pleased that a dozen are going forward for adoption of the kiosk itself, and that in the majority of cases this will be to have defibrillators installed for community use.

“We know that contractors are on the ground in Shropshire and they are liaising with us in starting to remove the 14 for which consent was given for these to go.

“In the meantime, we have also been made aware of another 12 on which BT which to consult with a view to permanent removal of the telephony. These are again in various locations across the county, and the relevant town councils and parish councils have been supplied with information in all cases. They are all the modern style ones. Could I ask people to possibly please get their views in again to me, by 4pm on Friday 27 March, to help us to reach a collective decision in each case to reflect the views of local people? Thank you.”

During the new formal 90-day consultation period, the task of the council as the Local Planning Authority will once again be to seek views from local town councils and parish councils, and to include any views from local councillors, residents, policing teams, and so forth, in order to help in reaching 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 parish council or town council wish to adopt.

The council’s starting position, as a predominantly rural county with a scattered population and concerns over mobile phone coverage for residents and for visitors, remains to Object to removal of telephony at kiosks unless local feedback suggests otherwise. This is due to concerns over things like emergency access; rural isolation; location in or near social housing or housing for older people, churches, doctors, schools, etc; and physical access where the next nearest payphone may be some distance away for those with mobility problems. The council also looks at continuing usage, even where this may appear low when compared with kiosk usage in a more densely populated urban area.

All the kiosks on this later list are modern style enclosed KX100s, rather than the older red K6 kiosks. This does not preclude their being adopted by the parish council or town council, but we are advised that such permission would only ordinarily be granted for the purposes for defibrillator storage. We are asking the town councils and parish councils involved to once again consider all factors at their disposal, including whether there are any other payphones remaining for resident and visitor access.

The consultation period commenced from the date agreed with BT, which was 6 February 2020, and concludes on 5 May 2020. We are required to ensure a minimum of 42 days for this first phase of the consultation period. Views on the proposals should be sent via email to Lois Dale, rurality and equalities specialist, email lois.dale@shropshire.gov.uk, by 4pm on Friday 27 March 2020. 

As with the larger scale consultation, the initial views, known as the First Notification, will be published by the council and copied to the relevant Government department in line with the formal direction from Ofcom, as well as being sent to BT. A minimum one month consultation period, for any further comments on the draft view, will then take us up to 4pm on Friday 1 May 2020. The final deadline is Tuesday 5 May 2020.

The listing is available at https://shropshire.gov.uk/shropshire-council/bt-payphones/

Further information

Shropshire Council, in accordance with section 49(4) of the Communications Act 2003 (’the Act’), made a final decision in each case in response to the proposal by BT for the removal of the 75 public call boxes. Section 50(1)(b) of the Act requires Shropshire Council to send to the Secretary of State a copy of every notification published under section 49(4) of the Act. A copy of the Final Notification was enclosed accordingly along with a formal letter.

The final notice listing was submitted to the Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and to BT, on Wednesday 18 December 2019. This was in order to ensure that it was received by BT before Thursday 19 December 2019, as per agreement with BT on timescales for so doing, and that DCMS had a copy of the final decision reached by the council on each payphone, as per Ofcom guidance.

Where the council did not hear back from a local community, following press releases, contact with the local parish council or town council, and publicity through the Shropshire Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly, we reached a decision on behalf of the local community. This was based on: analysis of previous call usage and previous concerns noted, including operability of telephony; assessment of the location eg rural isolated spot, eg known to attract numbers of visitors, eg in an area of social need; and continuing concerns for the council over mobile phone coverage issues in our large rural county.

We have enquired further about eligibility criteria for adopting a kiosk, including if a kiosk is a modern style KX100, after expressing concerns that an adoption might not always be able to proceed .BT has clarified that the adopting body must be a local council or registered charity. Sometimes they receive requests other types of organisation or private individuals to adopt and these are not able to do so. The most likely cause of an adoption not proceeding (other than the prospective adoptee deciding not to proceed) would be a request for a modern style kiosk to be adopted and this is something that BT only allow if the kiosk is to be used to house a defibrillator.

Whilst the stated starting position of Shropshire Council, as a predominantly rural county with a dispersed population, remains to Object to removal of telephony at kiosks unless local feedback suggests otherwise, the council will equally look 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 because there has been repeated vandalism or misuse of the kiosk.

For more details, please click the link to see the 2019 and 2020 listings and other resources on the website at https://shropshire.gov.uk/shropshire-council/bt-payphones/

The 2020 listing is also going to clerks for all town councils and parish councils and to members of the Shropshire Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly.