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Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009
End of the line for pay phones?
A BT phone box in Beaminster, West Dorset
Eighty five BT payphones in West Dorset are involved in the proposals

A proposal by BT to remove the telephone equipment from 85 pay phones in West Dorset is likely to be opposed by the district council.

It is concerned that people in areas with poor mobile phone signals would be unable to contact help in an emergency.

BT has written to parish and town councils in West Dorset to ask them to consider 'adopting' their local phone box for £1, with the phone removed.

A consultation period led by the district council is currently underway.

Removing the equipment

BT is looking at decommissioning hundreds of phone boxes across the country as it says the rise in popularity of mobile phones means some pay phones are no longer profitable or very well used.

Working pay phones can cost up to £800 per year to maintain.

After an 'adoption', the town or parish council concerned would take ownership of the empty box, retaining it as a 'heritage' feature.

But local authorities have the final say on whether the phone box is taken out of service.

An old red phone box on a lorry in Dorchester
The K6 telephone box was first introduced in 1935

John Lumb, payphones manager for BT, said: "If a payphone is not adopted it will stay where it is.

"BT is a commercial business but it is also providing a service.

"So we test an area to see if there are mobile signals there, and also if there's a social need there then BT wouldn't consider removing the pay phone.

"But we can only take them out with the council's agreement."

"A reliable means of communication"

Tony Hurley, West Dorset District Council's community support team leader, said: "Payphones in rural communities can provide a reliable means of communication for young people and older people, for visitors and for those without access to the mobile phone network.

"[The phone boxes are] seen as an essential service, particularly in emergencies.

"Figures for the last 12 months indicate that payphone usage fluctuates and there is no clear downward trend."

The district council's response to the proposals from BT, after consulting with the 51 parish and town councils in west Dorset that are involved, will be considered by the district council's executive committee on 15 December.

Currently officers are recommending that the council should veto all the proposals in order to retain the payphone network across the area.

Only two parish councils, Minterne Magna and Chesselbourne, have indicated they would want to 'adopt' their phone box.

The consultation process needs to be completed by December 19 2009.


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