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Parish plan to save phone boxes

PUBLISHED: 11:02 12 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:17 03 July 2010

It is one of the quintessentially English icons but the red telephone box is disappearing from many villages.

Now, however, many have been saved by communities who want to keep hold of part of their heritage.

It is one of the quintessentially English icons but the red telephone box is disappearing from many villages.

Now, however, many have been saved by communities who want to keep hold of part of their heritage.

Ten parish councils in Norfolk have saved the traditional phone box in their villages as part of BT's adopt a kiosk scheme.

The initiative was launched after telecommunication bosses backtracked on plans to remove 200 of the old boxes because they were no longer financially viable.

Under the scheme, councils which wanted to keep the box for heritage or aesthetic reasons could opt to buy it for just £1.

Communities which have taken up the offer include Bergh Apton, Bramerton, Pulham St Mary, Woodbastwick and Sheringham.

The formerly redundant red phone boxes will now either stand empty in the village as a landmark and symbol of English heritage or will be put to alternative use.

Brian Ansell, parish clerk in Bramerton, just outside Norwich, where they saved the box on The Street, said: “It's part of the conservation area and it's important to keep the characteristic of The Street in Bramerton so we didn't want it taken away.

“We hope to use it as an information hub for Bramerton and there are plans to provide information boards inside it.”

To adopt a kiosk, local authorities could either purchase it for £1 with all the telephone equipment removed or, to keep it running as a payphone, pay an annual sponsorship fee of £500.

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, which ran a poster campaign to help save phone boxes in villages in its district, said: “The red telephone boxes make an understanding contribution to the look of villages and are part of our heritage and we don't want to see our heritage to disappear if we can help it.

“They make the biggest contribution in conservation areas where the familiar red phone box is part of the character of that area.

“If local people can keep it then that's a good thing. At least people have the option.”

Nationally, more than 400 kiosks have been adopted and a further 100 applications are being considered.

BT is running a competition where councils can win up to £5,000 for the best and most innovative use for an adopted kiosk.

In Settle, north Yorkshire, a phone box has been used as an art gallery, claimed to be the smallest art gallery in the world.

John Lumb, general manager for BT Payphones, said: “We are receiving a strong and steady flow of enquiries about the Adopt a Kiosk scheme and are already seeing some kiosks being put to very interesting uses.

“Despite the high level of adoption requests, we would like to see more entries to the competition and more payphone adoptions. In fact, we believe there are more than 1,000 in the East of England used rarely or not at all, which are potentially suitable for adoption.”

For more information about the scheme, go to www.payphones.bt.com

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