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Hundreds of red phone boxes saved

PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 January 2011

The villagers of St Margaret South Elmham have converted a phonebox into a swap box for books.

The villagers of St Margaret South Elmham have converted a phonebox into a swap box for books.

Archant © 2010

Communities have saved 140 iconic red boxes from disappearing from across Norfolk and Suffolk after BT axed its least profitable pay phones.

Town and parish councils were urged to “adopt a kiosk” more than two years ago after the telecommunications giant decided to scrap hundreds of underused public phone boxes across the region.

Now scores of villages are the owners of a red phone box after local councils stepped in to buy them for £1 each and keep the kiosks on their street corners.

New figures obtained by the EDP show that 56 boxes have been adopted in Norfolk since mid 2009 with another 19 currently being processed. In Suffolk, 56 red boxes have also been taken on by villagers and another nine are in the process of being handed over.

Officials from BT said they had received a good response from communities after BT agreed to absorb excessive electricity costs of around £200 a year to light a disconnected box.

The red phone box has been a symbol of British culture since the 1920s and communities have been coming up with innovative uses for thems, despite no longer having a phone inside.

Many adopted boxes have been turned into information points and in St Margaret South Elmham, near Bungay, villagers have transformed theirs into a “swap box” – one of the country’s smallest lending libraries. An adopted kiosk at Gissing, near Diss, has also been painted gold by a local artist.

Cranworth Parish Council, which has adopted boxes at Cranworth, Southburgh, and Woodrising, near Watton, is looking to install village maps to help lost delivery drivers and visitors.

Hilary Campion, parish councillor, who lives opposite a disconnected red box, said: “There does not seem a way of putting a substitute phone in there, but they are landmarks and an important part of the scenery and character of the village. They are classic design pieces.”

New kiosk adoptions are set to take place in Ditchingham, East Ruston, Bracon Ash, Swainsthorpe, Thursford, Shropham, Stoke Holy Cross, Guist, Beeston, Woodton, Hempnall, Bunwell, Horningtoft, Witton, Bergh Apton, Cawston, Stow Bedon, Somerleyton, Oulton Broad, and Fressingfield in the near future.

A BT spokesman said: “We are pleased with the response in Suffolk and Norfolk and happy to work with councils that wish to adopt a suitable box.

There are no cost implications 
for councils adopting kiosks, regarding the supply of power to the box.”

For more information, visit www.payphones.bt.com.

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