Map of the payphone boxes BT wants to remove

More public payphones are set to disappear from streets in South Gloucestershire, unless communities can make a case to save them.

BT wants to get rid of another five phone kiosks – four of which were saved just last year – due to a lack of outgoing calls.

Payphones are largely considered obsolete now people have mobile phones and Internet access at their fingertips, but some people argue they are still useful in emergencies or for older generations.

The locations BT is proposing removal, and the average number of monthly calls made there in the six months up to March 2020, are:

  • Sundays Hill Lane, Falfield. One call per month
  • North View, Staple Hill. Seven calls per month
  • Kingsway, Little Stoke. 32 calls per month
  • Rodway Road, Patchway. 18 calls per month
  • Pear Tree Road, Bradley Stoke. Five calls per month

South Gloucestershire Council launched public consultation on Tuesday, July 21 seeking public opinion on BT’s proposals.

The consultation document stated that the payphones have been “identified as unnecessary” and do not meet the criteria for social need or usage.

It adds: “Payphones which will not be removed are those which are located in areas with higher than standard rates of suicide or accidents, areas without any mobile coverage, or any payphone within 400 meters of the coast.

“Additionally, payphones which have had at least 12 types of any call in the 12 months ending August 2019 and are also the only payphone within 800 meters, serving a population of more than 500 households within one kilometre.”

The familiar red phone boxes are so iconic that they sell for thousands of pounds online, often to people who want to use them as garden ornaments or inside quirky shops and bars.

However, the five up for removal are all the glass kiosk design, known as the KX series.

These were rolled out in the 1980s after BT decided the red boxes – known as K6 – posed issues including cost, lack of ventilation and accessibility.

BT runs a scheme called Adopt a Kiosk, which allows communities to buy underused phone boxes for £1 and transform them into tiny libraries, defibrillator houses, ATMs and other useful facilities.

A disused red phone box in Frenchay has been converted by residents into a mini-library
(Image: BristolLive)

The company consulted last August on plans to remove 12 payphones from South Gloucestershire, and the council decided in October to object to five, agree on six and allow Alveston Parish Council to adopt the other.

The reasons for objection were mostly due to the volume of calls, the number of houses they serve and the lack of another phone box within 400 metres.

Of the five in this latest consultation, four are plans which were objected to last year and the other is an entirely new proposal.

Previous objections

A payphone outside Tesco in Pear Tree Road, Bradley Stoke, was among those the council saved last year.

Its decision document in October explained: “Bradley Stoke Town Council believe there may be a need for domestic usage of the payphone for anonymous calls for the purposes of reporting domestic violence.

“Since there have been calls from the phone box, and it is not possible to tell what the nature of these calls were, the council is willing to allow the payphone to remain in case it is needed for this purpose.

“However should future usage drop below one call per week (52 per year), BT may request to remove the payphone based on lack of need.”

An average of just five calls per month were recorded there in the six months to March 2020.

The council had also previously saved the phone in Falfield, north of Thornbury, due to its close proximity to HMP Eastwood.

Its original decision said: “The proximity of the prison is a reason to believe there will continue to be individuals who will have no other access to telecommunications in this location in the future, and that there would be a significantly negative impact of them having no access to telecommunications.”

Public consultation runs until September 20 and the council will make a final decision by Monday, September 28.

Comments can be made via the council’s website.

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