THE SAGA OF THE MISSING PHONE BOX
In our July 2018 Newsletter we asked "Where's our phone box gone?". The K6-type kiosk which had been a feature of the Gateacre Village Conservation Area for so many years had disappeared, and no-one could tell us why. It would seem that both BT, who owned the box, and Ofcom, who regulate such matters, refuse to deal with enquiries from members of the public. Instead, they tell people to contact their local Council, who are supposed to handle any consultations on payphone removal.
When we asked Liverpool City Council, we were initially told that they knew nothing about the removal of our box. Then they forwarded to us a copy of a letter which BT claimed to have sent to the Council's Planning Department in September 2016, listing 18 payphone kiosks that they were proposing to remove. According to the Ofcom guidance, "BT have to display a notice on the call box", inviting objections within 42 days. Furthermore the City Council should have invited representations from community groups. However, the Planning Department say that they do not recall the letter ever having been received.
When we looked at the list of 18 kiosks, we found that ours was not the only one in or near Gateacre - but the others were all 'modern' boxes rather than the classic K6 (Giles Gilbert Scott) design. They included the one outside Woolton Post Office, the one on Woolton Road (near Cuckoo Close), the one on Quarry Street (opposite Gladstone Street), and the one outside the telephone exchange in Dunbabin Road, Wavertree. Of these, only the Quarry Street kiosk has actually (over two years on) been removed. On visiting the other three, we could find no evidence of a displayed 'notice of removal' - except in the case of the Woolton Post Office kiosk, which has a printed notice (with illegible handwritten date) in a frame INSIDE the box.
The whole point of the Ofcom guidelines is to give local residents - not just payphone users (of which the statistics indicate there are only a handful in our area) - a chance to make their views known. Retention of a box for 'occasional emergency use' may well be justified if there are no alternative facilities available nearby. Even if this argument is rejected, then community groups are supposed to be given a chance to 'adopt' the box (for just £1) for conversion into, for example, a defibrillator station. In the case of the Gateacre Village box, we are still waiting to hear what went wrong, and whether it can be reinstated.