Friday, 25 September 2009

Lower Road Telephone Box

We're all familiar with BT's famous red telephone box (or the Gilbert Scott designed 'K6' kiosk, to give it it's proper name). First installed in 1936 to celebrate King George V's silver jubilee, there were once 70,000 of them all across the UK.

Unfortunately, the almost universal ownership of mobile phones today means that the red telephone box is used less and less, and when BT is looking to cut costs, the telephone kiosk is frequently on the hit list. It is claimed that currently only 40% of public telephone boxes generate enough usage to cover their operational costs.

BT have recently contacted the parish council to say that the telephone box in Lower Road, Barnacle is to be scrapped because it has not generated enough use to justify its retention. I must admit to being quite surprised to find out that it had been used 90 times in the last 12 months (I would've guessed at a tenth of that figure), but it seems that two calls a week just isn't enough for BT, and the telephone is going to go.

However, it is possible for parish councils to take over the ownership of decommissioned telephone boxes (without, I stress, any working equipment inside). There remains a huge fondness for the traditional red telephone box, and when villages up and down the country are losing their amenities (and often with that, their character), Shilton Parish Council agreed at its last meeting to take over the ownership of the telephone box in Lower Road and maintain it as a traditional feature of the village street scene.

It won't cost much: BT will sell us the telephone box for £1 and it'll cost around £17 per year in electricity to light it up at night. The process of adoption isn't straightforward (it never is!) with Rugby Borough Council, Ofcom and E.ON all becoming involved, but I'll keep people posted on here as to progress, including when the parish council formally takes over the ownership of it.

It'll then join the 350 other red telephone boxes across the UK that have been taken over by local communities to preserve this iconic symbol of British life. And if anyone has any ideas as to what to do with the inside of an empty telephone box, do get in touch!

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