Changes to Norwich phone numbers planned

Telephone users in and around Norwich could soon be forced to use the area code when making local calls – in a bid to create more telephone numbers.

Communications watchdog Ofcom is running out of numbers for some areas in the UK.

Enforcing the use of the area code 01603 when making local calls would be phased in from 2015 to 2017. It would mean that even if calling a landline in Norwich from another landline in the same area, people will still have to dial the 01603 area code. In future years, telephone numbers could also become longer.

The 01603 code covers Norwich and nearby towns and villages including Barnham Broom, Brundall, Buxton, Coltishall, Costessey, Drayton, Hethersett, Hevingham, Honingham, Reepham, St Faith, Salhouse, South Walsham and Wroxham.

It is currently the only code in Norfolk which will be affected. Ofcom proposes to launch the pilot in early 2012, but the code 01603 would not be affected until 2015.

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John Youles, 63, a retired IT technician, from Woodland Road, Hellesdon, said: 'It is inconvenient. Local dialling is important. Everyone who I have spoken to thinks it is a stupid idea; they are making more work for the caller. People will be able to keep their current numbers and area codes, but those in new developments may not have the same local number as others in their area.'

Ofcom's consumer research says the plans are the least disruptive way to make more numbers available.

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The initiative will mean that a substantial amount of new numbers would be possible, because new six-digit numbers can be created that begin 0, 1 or 9 - which is not allowed to happen at the moment. Ofcom refers to it as 'closed local dialling' because it will remove people's current ability to dial local numbers without the area code. Ofcom said that call charges will not be affected. Andy Rackham, chairman of Wymondham-based telecoms firm, the APR Group, said: 'The proposed change will have an effect on businesses, especially call centres which make a high volume of calls.

'It is inconvenient and will be more digits for people to remember. Whether or not a call comes from a local number doesn't matter to me, I am equally as likely to take a call from a number which isn't local, both as a consumer and a business owner.'

A 156-page consultation has been published by Ofcom and consumers have until Febraury 18 to voice their opinions.

What do you think? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email

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