FOLLOW-UP: Angry reaction over the ‘red phone box saga’ continues

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It is certainly an unlikely choice as our most-read story of the past few days, but the removal of the red phone box last week was a clear winner. Alex Dawson reflects back on the incident with reaction from the council and BT.

BT seems to have made an unpopular call on Market Harborough’s High Street - by removing the red phone box.

The phone box disappeared on the back of a contractor’s truck last Thursday, after being dislodged from its familiar place outside property consultants Fisher German.

No one was told in advance that it was going, and now almost everyone is missing it.

Local councillor Barbara Johnson is furious, saying: “It’s been part of the street scene in a conservation area for years.

“And Harborough In Bloom were keen to adopt it, and keep it in order. Someone’s made a mistake here.”

Market Harborough In Bloom’s Margaret Richards confirmed: “Yes, we were keen to adopt it.

“We would have kept it tidy and used it to store contact details for local organisations, for the public.”

Margaret added: “We emailed both BT and the district council to tell them we were willing to adopt it.”

More than 3,500 phone boxes have been ‘adopted’ by local people under BT’s Adopt A Kiosk scheme. They are used for everything from dispensing drinks to storing a defibrillator.

Cllr Blake Pain, leader of Harborough District Council, said: “I am disappointed that this phone box has been taken away as neither the council, nor the public, were consulted on its removal.

“After we received an expression of interest from Harborough in Bloom to take on responsibility for the phone box, we contacted BT but were told it was not up for adoption and wouldn’t be for a couple of years.”

Despite the assurance, BT - motto “We use the power of communication to make a better world” - removed the kiosk without telling anybody.

The Mail understands that Harborough District Council received a list in December of phone boxes across the district that BT planned to remove. The High Street phone box was not on that list.

Now BT has told the district council it can remove a phone box without consultation if there’s another within 400 metres, and it has not been listed or adopted.

Cllr Pain said the council was only told of this rule after the kiosk’s removal.

He said: “This is not what I’d expect from an organisation that purports to be customer focused.”

He said he would also be writing to BT expressing his disappointment.

A BT spokesperson said: “We’re really sorry people are unhappy this phone box has been removed.

“It was not part of the recent consultation as, in line with guidelines from Ofcom, there is another one within 400 metres.

“It was removed as there were no calls (from the phone box) made during the previous 12 months, and we had not received a formal request to adopt it.

“We appreciate this is frustrating for the local group, but urge others in a similar position to formally submit a request for adoption through our website to make sure their interest is properly registered.”