BT wants to remove public payphones, but Hertsmere Borough Council insists some are ‘emergency lifelines’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 January 2017

The public payphone in London Road, Shenley

The public payphone in London Road, Shenley

Photo supplied

Is it the end of the line for your local phone box? A council certainly hopes not, as it has launched a bid to save four payphones, considered a potential ‘emergency lifeline’ for some elderly people.

British Telecommunications (BT) signalled last year that it planned to scrap 25 kiosks in Hertsmere borough, saying that use of public payphones has declined by over 90 per cent in the past decade.

This is due to the rise of mobile phone use and increased 3G and 4G coverage across the UK.

But after objections were lodged against the proposal, Hertsmere borough council officers took action to put BT’s call on hold.

The authority has written to the Secretary of State for Media, along with the telecommunications giant, asking for four payphones in particular to be retained.

This includes one in Shenley, which was used 158 times in the past 12 months.

The council’s portfolio holder for planning and localism, Cllr Harvey Cohen, said: “We’re objecting to the removal of payphones which show the highest level of usage. In some cases, we’ve also received comments from members of the public asking for the phones to stay because they feel safer with them there.”

He added that while it was not up to the authority to decide whether the phones were removed, residents’ response to a recent public consultation showed that “even in these times of high mobile phone usage, payphones still have a role to play in terms of community cohesion and safety.”

A decision will be made by BT later this year.

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