23/11/2020 - Permalink

BT payphone removal consultation is concluded in Shropshire

Related topics: Community / Corporate / Partner organisations

Shropshire Council would like to extend sincere thanks to all parish councils and town councils involved in the recent large scale BT payphone removals consultation exercise, together with the public, voluntary and community sector organisations, Neighbourhood Policing Teams, and Shropshire Councillors.

BT wrote to the council at the end of July 2020 with proposals to permanently remove 56 payphones in Shropshire from service. A formal 90-day consultation exercise commenced with the council, as per the guidance set out by Ofcom. This concluded on 11 November 2020.

There were only ten of the 56 that were not on previous recent listings. The kiosks are a mix of the traditional red K6 style kiosk, and the modern style KX100, and are spread across the whole of the Shropshire Council area.

BT payphone - a red phonebox, in Shropshire

A red payphone box in Shropshire

Officers therefore drew up and published a listing that included all the comments made last time around, in order to assist in saving everyone some time, and in so doing help us to reach a collective up-to-date decision on behalf of the local communities in each area in each case. We included a column to this effect in our final view notices.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, said:-

“The number of BT payphones in Shropshire for which the council’s final view is to Consent to removal of the service and the kiosk is four, up from the provisional view given in October to consent to removal of two of the kiosks and telephony. This includes one for which Consent was given for its removal in the autumn 2019 round of consultation in late 2019. For the remaining 52, the final view is to Object to removal of the service and kiosk.

“In some cases, we have reiterated the concerns that we raised in autumn 2019, around operability and functionality, affecting potential call usage. We have requested investigation and repair, whilst noting that the pandemic is curtailing activities for everyone at this time.

“As may be seen, many of the town councils and parish councils, with their minds also occupied by coronavirus-related matters, have decided to sustain objections previously made.

“I would like at this stage to reiterate my own thanks to everyone for taking the time to consider the future that they wanted to see for the payphones in their locality that were on the list. My special thanks go to the people who contacted the council, whose input was greatly appreciated.”

BT have acknowledged receipt of the council’s final notification and our summary of 52 objections and 4 agreements to our proposals. This notification has also been sent to the Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as per the legislation.

Where the council did not hear back from a local community, we considered all factors, and in the main have held to our default position. This is to object to removal of the telephony in order to seek to ensure continuation of the service as fulfilling a social need, including continuing concerns over mobile phone signal coverage and growing concerns about use needed by low income households and older people. This is in no small part due to our situation as a large, rural, and sparsely populated county, with an ageing population, scattered locations of services and amenities, and mobile phone coverage issues for residents and visitors alike. 

Further information

During the 90-day period, the job of the council 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, and so forth, in order to help us 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 parish council or town council wish to adopt.

Comments were received during the initial minimum 42 day consultation phase, as well as during the subsequent minimum one month consultation period following the provisional view of the council, formally notified to DCMS and to BT by letter dated 2 October 2020. The consultation period took us up to 4pm on Monday 9 November 2020.

Shropshire Council, in accordance with section 49(4) of the Communications Act 2003 (’the Act’), has made a final decision in each case in response to the proposal by BT for the removal of these 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 is available in spreadsheet format on the council website. There are none where the local parish council or town council has expressed an active desire to adopt the kiosk for defibrillator storage or other use, albeit it remains the case that this could still be a future aspiration in a number of instances.

Online resources include details about what to do if a local parish council or town 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 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.

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/

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, 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 will undertake to consider factors in favour of removal of the payphone where the views of the local community are either that an operational payphone is no longer necessary, or that there has been repeated vandalism or misuse of the kiosk, or that adoption would be a better option in that area, perhaps for defibrillator storage. These factors may come up at any time, and parish councils and town councils are welcome to get in touch with us if they wish to see consultation initiated on a particular payphone with a view to its removal or adoption.

For any queries, please contact the lead co-ordinating officer, Lois Dale, either via telephone 01743 258528, or via email lois.dale@shropshire.gov.uk.