BT phone box cull around Scarborough, Whitby and North Yorkshire Moors branded 'disappointing'

A fresh attempt to remove a number of phone boxes from around the borough has been branded as “disappointing” by Scarborough Council planning officers.

Monday, 10th August 2020, 11:48 am
Updated Monday, 10th August 2020, 11:52 am
Red phone box in Goathland.

BT is again consulting on the removal of a number of phone kiosks across the borough including areas of the North York Moors National Park.

The company last held a consultation eight months ago and the 16 boxes it is looking to close this time around are the same ones that were saved by the borough council during that process.

A report prepared by Scarborough Council’s planning policy and conservation manager Steve Wilson has criticised the company.

It states: “It is disappointing that BT has decided to try again to remove these phone boxes after such a short duration of time since the previous consultation and especially during the current pandemic.”

Many of the phone boxes are located in remote parts of the borough where there is poor or no mobile phone reception.

BT says some of the phone boxes have not been used at all in the past year and that it is facing increased costs in the operation of the boxes.

The report, which will go before the council’s planning committee on Thursday, says that a new monthly breakdown of calls made from the phone boxes could be skewed by people staying home during the lockdown.

It states: “Clearly this remains an emotive topic and it is disappointing that this further consultation has been brought forward so soon after the borough council vetoed the removal of all of these phone boxes only six to eight months ago.

“While there may have been some changes in mobile reception in that time the responses received to date suggest that that is only in very few areas.

“The recording from BT has also been changed to show usage per month as opposed to per annum; this in itself with rounding down could show a lesser usage than is absolute.

"Furthermore, it is unclear the timescale used for this average.

“Clearly there will have been a potential further drop off in usage over the past four months during the pandemic with many people respecting the lockdown, staying at home and also more unwilling to touch surfaces that could be infected with Covid-19.”

One red phone box, located in Goathland, is on the list of proposed closures.

Mr Wilson’s report adds that there were “vociferous objections” to this when BT tried to remove it in the last consultation due to the village’s “non-existent mobile signal”.

In total, the council will attempt to veto 15 of the 16 proposed closures.

The one where it is felt the retention cannot be justified is in Hinderwell, north of Whitby.

Hinderwell Parish Council has told the borough council that a new phone mast has improved the mobile phone reception in the village, meaning it would not meet the criteria to be saved.

Those that the borough council intends to fight for are in Commondale, Fryup, Eastfield, Egton Bridge, Egton, Littlebeck, Sleights, Goathland, Glaisdale, two in Grosmont, Newholm, Sneaton, Staintondale and Westerdale.

The consultation closes in October.