ALMOST a third of public phone boxes across Lancashire could be axed after telecommunications provider BT said they were under used.
Out of the 1,002 payphones in the Red Rose county, 306 could be culled as BT has earmarked them for removal.
They include the well-known telephone at Dunsop Bridge in the Ribble Valley, which marks the centre of the United Kingdom and has become something of a tourist attraction since it was unveiled 24 years ago.
The firm has entered into a 90-day consultation period over the proposals to give residents the chance to have their say on whether the phone boxes should stay or go.
The company has revealed that 94 phone boxes in Lancashire were not used at all in the last year.
BT’s plans mean that 19 per cent of phone boxes in Preston are under threat, 38 per cent in South Ribble could be culled and Chorley’s pay phones could be slashed by half.
But it is the Ribble Valley that could be worst hit with 81 per cent of phone boxes in the area earmarked for potential closure.
Politicians across the county have called for people to participate in the formal consultation process to voice their opinions.
Labour MP for Chorley Lindsay Hoyle has warned that, although people do not often use pay phones, residents in rural areas and many older people still count on the service.
He is urging his constituents to add their tuppenceworth if they wish to save their local phone box.
“We know that in this day and age most people either have a mobile phone or have access to one so the use of public payphones has hugely reduced over the years,” said Mr Hoyle.
“However, some residents still rely on these phones, particularly rural areas or in communities with older people.”
“BT has provided details on the usage of each phone box, however, the future of each phone cannot be judged on these numbers alone, particularly as we know that some of the phones have been out of order.
“I urge all residents to speak out if they want to keep their local phone box.”
Speaking to the Evening Post, an Age UK spokesman for Lancashire said: “We are aware that there are isolated older people in rural areas.
“We work hard to keep them connected and we hope that their needs would be considered in any decisions made.”
Ribble Valley councillor Ken Hind said: “Not everyone even today has their own landline or mobile phone particularly those on low incomes.
“Many elderly people still rely on these telephone boxes. In terms of calling emergency services, police ambulance and fire, they provide an important service.
“Parts of Longridge still have particularly poor mobile phone services.”
Among the payphones earmarked to face the chop in the Ribble Valley is the famous phone box marking the centre of the Kingdom in Dunsop Bridge.
The move has been criticised by the district’s MP Nigel Evans, who said: “The impact on the Ribble Valley is hugely disproportionate.
“Coming as this does on top of the removal of Library Services and Children’s Centres by Lancashire County Council, the Ribble Valley is being made to suffer because it is a rural area this time by one of the large privatised utilities.
“There appears to be poor understanding by BT of the poor mobile phone reception that exists right across the Ribble Valley.”
Glenda Gill and Tony Bradshaw, who run Puddleducks Tea Room in Dunsop Bridge, said they were baffled why BT would unveil plans to remove the iconic village phone box, which has become a tourist attraction over the years.
Glenda said: “We have a landline and internet access, but it would be ludicrous to remove the iconic phone box.
“Every day we get tourists asking about the phone box and having their pictures taken next to it. It would be a major blow if BT decided to remove it.”
But the loss of 20 phone boxes in Preston does not come as an issue for chiefs at the town’s city council.
“If residents have concerns about the loss of services they can make us aware,” said a spokesman.
“But in reality people don’t use them anymore, we are in a different era now.”
A spokesman from BT said that although the company is committed to providing a public payphone service, the use of them has declined by over 90 per cent in the last decade.
“We’ve continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed,” the spokesman said.
“Any removal of payphones is carried out in strict adherence to the Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities.
“In all instances where there’s no other payphone within 400 metres, we’ll ask for consent from the local authority to remove the payphone.
“Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone.”
Here’s our full list of the exact locations of the threatened phone boxes in your area