BT is currently consulting on the proposed removal of hundreds of its phone boxes from a number of locations across our regions. Consultations are being managed by each local authority, and views on the proposed list of removals are being sought. Communities are also being given the chance to adopt a phone box and convert it to other uses such as housing a defibrillator or hosting a micro-library.
BT has a regulatory obligation to ensure adequate provision of public telephone boxes. However, the ever-increasing use of mobile phones and the expanding mobile phone network means that the use of phone boxes has declined over recent years and is expected to do so further in future. 93% of adults in the UK now own a mobile phone, with mobile phone coverage reaching 98% of UK households. Research carried out in 2015 shows that only around 4% of people in the UK say that they use public phone boxes.
BT say that the declining use of many phone boxes, combined with the costs of their maintenance and repair, makes many phone boxes unsustainable.
The telecoms industry regulator, Ofcom, says that BT does have the right to remove phone boxes, but must take care to identify those boxes least used and in areas where they are least likely to be needed in case of an emergency. In areas with high proportions of rented housing (where fewer people are likely to own a mobile phone) or in areas identified as accident blackspots, particularly near the coast, a strong case has to be made to remove a phone box.
Nevertheless, are large proportion of boxes are being proposed for removal. For example, over 60 boxes within North York National Park boundaries are scheduled to close, while as many of 70 out of the 110 boxes in Ryedale district are under consultation. In total, several hundred boxes across both urban and rural areas of Yorkshire could be closed. This is particularly significant in rural areas where in some cases mobile phone reception remains unreliable.
BT must consult with a designated local organisation, usually the local council, before they can remove a phone box. Where a phone box is listed for removal, a notice must be placed in the affected phone box, and the local council be given the opportunity to comment. Where a local authority objects to the removal, then it will usually not go ahead. Unfortunately there is no central list of all phone boxes that BT has planned for removal, so we recommend checking your local phone box for a notice and contacting your local council.
Where a phone box is planned to be removed, BT does offer local communities the opportunity to adopt it. In this case the phone service will still close but the box itself will remain in place. This can be of particular value with the older 'heritage' design phone boxes, which are often seen as making a distinctive contribution to the appearance of an area. Phone boxes adopted by communities can be converted to other uses such as housing a defibrillator, hosting a micro-library or providing a mini local information kiosk.
BT payphones information website. Includes information about how to adopt a phone box for community use.