50 Suffolk phone boxes face axe

Thursday, 12 November, 2009

RURAL residents could end up isolated and vulnerable if plans to axe more than 50 public pay phones are given the nod, it was claimed last night.

BT is looking to scrap 53 phone booths in St Edmundsbury. Critics claim they are a vital community resource - especially in the event of an emergency.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is calling for 23 of the 53 kiosks facing closure to be kept and is consulting with residents to find out what they think.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said he would be doing everything he could to support villagers who wanted to keep their phone boxes.

'For some rural villages in my constituency, these payphones are a vital community resource,' he said. 'Although many of these payphones are used only infrequently they may nevertheless be a vital resource for people without a landline or mobile - or for use in an emergency.

'I am concerned that in some villages BT is trying to remove a payphone that is well used - for example the payphone in The Street, Pakenham, was used for 152 calls in twelve months.'

Christopher Spicer, Pakenham councillor, said he hoped the booth in The Street could be saved.

A council spokesman said BT would not be able to remove a payphone if the council had a 'justified objection' to its loss.

A BT spokesman said communities can buy their kiosk - though it would be an empty shell without a working telephone.

'While it is true that demand for public payphones is in decline where a clear social need is proved we are more than happy to maintain low usage, unprofitable kiosks,' a spokesman said.

Consultation on the proposals runs until November 25 and the council will notify BT of its findings by January 2 next year.