Bid to get vandalism-attracting BT phone boxes in Cherwell cleaned up

Cllr Sean Gaul proposed a motion to urge BT to clean up its phone boxes, like this one. Photos: Cllr Sean Gaul NNL-171018-163231001

Unsightly BT phone boxes attracting vandalism and anti-social behaviour in Cherwell district should be cleaned up, the council has urged.

With the use of payphone kiosks declining across north Oxfordshire, Cherwell District Council has issued an appeal to BT.

A motion passed at a meeting of the council on Monday (October 16) requests that BT keep the boxes clean on the inside and outside.

Neglected phone booths can attract rubbish and vandalism, and earlier this year it was reported that BT would be scrapping half of the boxes remaining in the UK, according to the council.

BT says it has not heard from the council yet but will respond when it does - adding that it is as frustrated as anyone when the kiosks are vandalised.

Cllr Sean Gaul, who represents the Bicester East ward, proposed the motion, which was seconded by council leader Cllr Barry Wood.

“BT reports that phone box usage has dropped by 90 per cent in the last 10 years, but that doesn’t alter their obligation to keep them clean and in good repair,” Cllr Gaul said.

“Across the district we are seeing examples of peeling banners and damage that has not been repaired in good time.

“The boxes can then become targets for vandalism and littering, lowering the tone of our public spaces.

“We are very supportive of imaginative initiatives to preserve the historic red kiosks, such as Banbury’s phone box library, and we recognise that a minority of people still find payphones very useful.

“But where unused phone boxes are becoming eyesores, BT must take action.”

The phone box library on South Bar Street was adopted by Banbury Town Council in 2015 following a community campaign.

BT runs an Adopt a Kiosk scheme to enable councils, charities and private landowners to adopt phone boxes for the price of £1.

BT can remove a phone box without consulting the public where there is another box within a 400-metre walking distance.

Otherwise BT must follow Ofcom rules, which include an obligation to inform the public and district council in advance.

A BT spokesman said: “We’re not aware of any correspondence from Cherwell District Council yet and will of course respond to any enquiries we receive.

“We’re just as frustrated as members of the public are when our kiosks are vandalised or used for anti-social behaviour.

“As the popularity of mobile phones has increased in recent years, so we’ve seen a corresponding dramatic decline in the use of public phone boxes – more than 90 per cent in the last decade.

“For that reason, we don’t visit our phone boxes as often as we used to and we rely on our engineers to report any faulty boxes.

“In addition, our dedicated payphone customer services department can be contacted by members of the public or councils Monday to Friday on 0800661610, or via emailcustomer.serv.payphones@bt.com to report any issues regarding our payphone kiosks and we will then endeavour to get them sorted as quickly as possible.”

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