Councillors call for phone boxes to be retained

Berwick Town Council has expressed concern at proposals to remove little-used public phone boxes.

Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 8:40 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 10:40 am
Gregah Roughead of Berwick Town Council

BT has requested the removal of phone boxes at Newfields, Northumberland Road and Spittal Hall Road.

Cllr Gregah Roughead said: “I know many people will think that with modern technology these are not needed but there are still many people in our community who would rely on these if there was an accident or an emergency.”

The public phonebox at Barrowburn.

Meanwhile, the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT) has also voiced opposition to the removal of any public phone box where there is little or no mobile coverage. A total of 14 BT phone boxes in remote areas of the national park and surrounding areas are under threat of being removed.

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A statement from NNPMRT said: ‘Given the nature of occupations (agricultural/commuting etc) and type of residence (holiday homes) in the area, one cannot rely on finding an occupied house with a landline when one is needed.

‘We are aware that certain phone boxes, such as those at Barrowburn and Ingram in particular, are used by groups doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award to check in with their leaders or are part of safety briefings given to such groups as locations where they would be able to make emergency calls should they need to. The absence of them would therefore reduce the safety of young people on such expeditions.

‘We believe that it is not good enough for BT to say that the majority of the country is covered by 3G and 4G. They need to ensure that coverage is achieved in the areas these phone boxes are located prior to their removal.’

The public phonebox at Barrowburn.

In September, Northumberland County Council launched a public consultation on behalf of BT on the possible removal of 171 ‘little-used’ payphones across Northumberland. The telecoms company says that payphones will remain in situ where objections are received.

Objections have been lodged for 51 of those phones, which will be passed onto BT, leaving 120 which are set to be removed.