Preston’s red phone boxes set to be given new lease of life

Aidan Turner-Bishop outside the iconic phone boxes in the centre of Preston

Aidan Turner-Bishop outside the iconic phone boxes in the centre of Preston

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Seven iconic boxes left redundant in the age of the mobile phone could now be transformed into tiny coffee bars and ice cream kiosks.

Charitable trust Thinking Outside the Box wants to reinvent the Market Street units to suit 21st-century life.

BT phone box in Brighton, converted to a coffee kiosk

BT phone box in Brighton, converted to a coffee kiosk

Architect Miles Broe said the scheme was being set up across the country.

He said: “There are about 9,500 red boxes in England. What we are doing is saying we will take them over and put them to use.

“We will restore them and look after their maintenance and the fact they are occupied and locked up at night means nobody can vandalise and abuse them.”

The external appearance of the boxes will be virtually unaltered, but the inside will be transformed, if plans are approved by Preston Council, with some of the profits due to be donated to local charities.

Mr Broe said: “It literally is just a pod within the kiosk that’s designed so it incorporates all the equipment to serve a coffee.

“It will just be the red boxes renovated and decorated, and then we put in the free-standing pod.

“The only thing we do is add a lock which has been agreed with the conservation team, which means it can only be unlocked in operating hours, between 8.30am and 6pm.”

Mr Broe was approached by Thinking Outside the Box who asked if the concept was possible, and he then designed the unit hub.

He said: “It was really because people were moaning about the iconic red boxes, they are usually in very nice, very focal areas, and they look forlorn and forgotten because a lot of them aren’t functioning.

“It was a way of us saying to BT, how about we adopt them and take responsibility because they can’t be removed – they are listed.”

Civic experts have celebrated the news that the neglected boxes could be brought back into use, provided it is done “thoughtfully”.

Aidan Turner-Bishop, chairman of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, said: “They are a very nice, classic British design.

“And they are quite well known, the seven in Preston.

“Providing the red classic exterior remains, I can’t see any harm in it because it’s a good use.

“But I think somewhere in the middle of Preston there should be at least one working telephone box, just in case. The main point is, if we can preserve the nice traditional design as part of the streetscape of Preston, then why not?

“If it keeps them in circulation then that’s marvellous, but it has to be thoughtfully done.”