Penarth Town Council is to resist moves by British Telecom (BT) to remove three public telephone kiosks in Penarth .
The three threatened Penarth kiosks are (as reported by PDN earlier this week see http://tinyurl.com/hjbx4bt ) are:-
St Luke’s Avenue (171 calls in 12 months)
- Pill St (Cogan) (42 calls made in 12 months) ,
- Castle Avenue (18 calls in 12 months) .
The Town Clerk Emma Boylan told members of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee last night that BT was carrying out a programme of public payphone removals and that the council had the options of either agreeing or objecting to the removals – or “adopting” the three phone boxes in question. All three of the threatened boxes are three-sided “modern” stainless steel and perspex kiosks.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) said that given the high use of 171 calls made from the in St Lukes Avenue phone-box it was “appalling” that BT wanted to remove it. Cllr Wilson said “we are talking about one of the most deprived areas of Penarth” . Not everyone had the money to use a mobile phone and in emergency situations access to a phone was very important and when the mobile network was down, neighbours often did not have landline phones. He objected “very strongly to any removal of this phone from this particular location”.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) supported retention of the phone box in Castle Avenue . He said this was an area which was quite remote in some respects from the infrastructure of the rest of Penarth.
He acknowledged that usage in this case was low but said the lack of cleaning and maintenance of kiosks was a “physical barrier” to their greater use by the public .
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he had recently seen lady answering an pre-arranged incoming call on the Castle Avenue phone-box. This was a “lifeline to her” – [and a call which would not be recorded in BT statistics].
Cllr Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell) supported the retention of the kiosk in Pill St – an area with a large number of elderly people who “would never dream of using a mobile”. She thought 42 usages per year was sufficient to justify its retention .
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said that the 42 calls in Pill St amounted to the second highest usage of the 20 boxes in the Vale threatened with removal -with St Luke’s Avenue at the top of the list. It was reasonable usage which “demonstrated there was still a need” for these boxes. Cllr Roberts said the council should discover how much of a financial burden it would be on the council to adopt these boxes.
Planning chairman Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said the use of mobile phones had over the years reduced the use of public call-boxes but there were still areas of Penarth where there were “blackspots” in mobile phone reception and there was still a need for public access to communications in emergencies. He thought the committee would want to object to the whole idea of removing the public payphones.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said the very word “public” meant the phones were “there for the public”. Cllr Thomas said if [ in an emergency] a public phone saved only one person, their retention was justified.
Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell) said that she understood that if the council objected to the removal of the phone boxes, BT would retain them – but Cllr Birch said this was a very optimistic view. A red telephone box near St Joseph’s Church had been taken away despite high usage she said.
Cllr Alexander said that if the committee did make a recommendation that the boxes be retained, BT should also be told that the boxes should be serviced, cleaned and “kept in a reasonable state of hygiene”. Cllr Thomas agreed saying that if the phone boxes were more attractive to use, greater use would be made of them.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) – an enthusiastic proponent of mobile phone masts – asked rhetorically when anyone in the council chamber had last used a public pay-phone. There was no reply.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said was an assumption that “everyone has a mobile phone – which they haven’t” . Cllr Ernest said even mobile phone users could find themselves with a flat battery and – in an emergency – would have to“go and knock on a neighbour’s door” .
Cllr Thomas said the emergency use element would be added to the council’s response to BT.