Scores of phone boxes facing axe

MSP John Lamont at the Ashkirk phonebox, just off the A7
MSP John Lamont at the Ashkirk phonebox, just off the A7

Scores of the Borders’ telephone boxes look set to scrapped, but objectors are calling on BT to spare what they describe as vital lifelines for the communities they serve.

The telecommunications company is beginning consultations on the closure of 104 of its 161 phone boxes in the region.

More than a dozen of the boxes facing the axe are in and around Hawick, with three in Kelso, two in Selkirk, two in Peebles and five in Galashiels also under review.

Others in locations including Melrose, Lauder, Gordon, Earlston, Duns and Coldstream face closure too.

The closure plans are causing concern as many of the remote areas potentially affected suffer from poor mobile phone signal and some are in reception blackspots with no service at all.

According to BT, usage of telephone boxes has declined by more than 90 per cent in the last 10 years, due to the rising popularity of mobile phones, rendering phone boxes redundant.

Payphone removal is controlled by the Office of Communications (Ofcom), meaning that BT has to adhere to strict guidelines, including consulting Scottish Borders Council, before proceeding.

It must also put a notice on any phone box at risk stating that it is about to remove it, giving users the chance to register objections.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont is among those opposed to the closure plans, saying: “I am highly concerned by plans to close nearly two-thirds of the Borders’ phone boxes and have been contacted by a number of worried constituents.

“These phone boxes provide a lifeline for many rural communities, both for visitors and the people who live there.

“While their usage has inevitably fallen, it remains vital to many local communities to continue to have access to a phone box where mobile phone reception is patchy or non-existent, and for those who choose not to have a landline.

“In an emergency, the closure of these payphones could cause real problems.

“The key to keeping them lies with Scottish Borders Council’s reaction to these plans. Anyone who shares my concern must send the council the clear message that our phone boxes are important and should be safeguarded.”

A BT spokeswoman said: “Any removal of payphones is carried out in strict adherence to Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities.

“In all instances where there’s no other payphone within 400 metres, we’ll ask for consent from the local authority to remove the payphone. Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone.”

Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer shares his concerns, saying: “There are about 13 in Hawick, with the most used one being at North Bridge Street, near the lane to Bourtree Place, which has taken 125 calls.

“The proposal to take them all away, through lack of use, is certainly a worry.

“I do understand that many people now use mobile phones, but the phone boxes still provide an emergency service in bad weather and when the mobile network is down.

“It is very important there are enough phone boxes strategically placed in the town and countryside.”

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Pco Pco Hutton

A6105 Foulden

Pco Pco Grantshouse

Main St Pco Gavinton
Pco Winterfield Gardens Duns

Polwarth Pco Greenlaw

Opposite Village Hall Pco Preston

Pco South St Duns

Longformacus Village Pco Longformacus

Village Hall Cranshaws Pco

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Pco Pco Cockburnspath

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On The B6357 Nr Larriston

No.1 Silverbuthall Rd Hawick

Pco 1pco Rosebank Rd Hawick

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Corner Bourtree Pl North Bridge St Hawick

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Pco 1pco Cogsmill

Grid Nt44/4510 Carters Cott Pco Newmill On Teviot

Pco Telephone Exchange Hawick

Pco Pco Chesters/Southdean

Nr Jcn Hawick-Newcastle Rd Pco Bonchester Bridge

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Pco Pco1 Craik

Pco Poynder Place Kelso

Pco 1pco Sprouston

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O/S The Smithy Ednam

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Pco Pco Cessford

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Pco Telephone Exchange Eden Rd Gordon

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Pco Pco Eddleston

Pco Post Office Kirkton Manor

Pco Pco Blyth Farm Road Blyth Bridge

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Lay By On A7 Pco Cransfield Drive Ashkirk

O/S Cafe And Bistro Pco 42200 Selkirk

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Outside Post Office Pco Bowde

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O/S Camptown Exchange 1pco Jedburgh

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