Authorities show solidarity in opposing BT phone box plans

The phone box in Thwaite is one that is at risk.

Numerous local authorities are to present a united front in opposing a telecommunication giant’s proposal to remove telephone boxes from areas where payphones can be the difference between life and death.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will line up alongside Richmondshire, North Yorkshire and parish councils to press BT to keep at least 12 of the 43 public phones it hopes to remove from across Richmondshire in the coming months.

A BT spokesman said has said the proposals follow overall use of payphones declining by more than 90 per cent in the last decade.

The firm, which is aiming to the scrap 20,000 boxes nationally between 2017 and 2022, says the need to provide payphones for use in emergency situations is diminishing all the time, with at least 98 per cent of the UK having either 3G or 4G coverage.

A BT spokesman said: “This is important because as long as there is network coverage, it’s now possible to call the emergency services, even when there is no credit or no coverage from your own mobile provider.”

A full meeting of the district authority saw members agree to lead the other councils in opposing BT’s cost-cutting plans on the grounds that “there is a clear and overriding social need for their retention”.

The phone boxes on the council’s shortlist to campaign for include Arkengarthdale, Buttersett, Carperby, Carlton, Colburn, Aysgarth, Grinton, Hudswell, Muker, Preston under Scar, Reeth and Newsham.

Members also agreed for holding objections to be submitted for any areas which did not respond to the consultation on the basis that defibrillators require the ability to call 999 to obtain the access code and the absence of a mobile signal will render the defibrillator inoperable.

The meeting was told the national park authority did not consider that BT, in using generic criteria such as call box revenue, had given adequate consideration has to the specific circumstances of isolated areas.

Members heard while the district council was objecting to about 25 per cent of the phone box closures, the park authority “objects to these proposals in their entirety”.

Hawes councillor Jill McMullon said: “It is very important that deeply rural areas keep their phone boxes, they are a vital link.”

Members remarked on how a public consultation with parishes over BT’s proposals had generated an unusually strong response, indicating how highly prized the payphones remain.

Yoredale councillor Yvonne Peacock said it was very important that the local authorities were showing a united front towards the telecommunications giant to signal the level of local determination on the issue.

Arkengarthdale member Councillor Richard Good added: “I have been travelling today in the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales national parks and when BT say there is 98 per cent coverage I just do not believe them, because I’m sure these national parks would make up the two per cent let alone the rest of the country. It is absolutely ridiculous.

“I understand that BT is losing a lot of money because the use of them has gone down dramatically, but it is a public service and we must maintain it.”