August 29, 2016
Red public telephone boxes, a landmark in the UK countryside, are edging closer to extinction after proposals by BT to protect them from removal received a lukewarm reception from local councils.
BT has earmarked hundreds of public payphones around the UK for removal because they are no longer profitable.
Most of these are red telephone boxes in rural areas.
Local councils were outraged by the plans to remove the icons of rural British life that have adorned villages for over 70 years.
Some councils have tried to protect the telephone boxes as listed buildings so that BT is legally obliged to keep them operational.
Others tried a different tack, asking BT to remove the telephones but leave the red boxes. BT, however, told local authorities that this was not possible.
BT have now changed their tune and have said that the red telephone boxes can stay as long as they are ‘adopted’ and maintained by the local council.
If a live telephone is to remain in the box, then BT have asked councils to pay £500 in sponsorship, about half the annual cost to BT of maintaining the boxes.
Despite the good news, some councils are concerned by the financial implications of BT’s proposals, whilst others have called the plans ‘half baked’.
Most councils are unwilling to take up BT’s offer as yet, believing that maintaining the boxes is BT’s responsibility.