‘Saving a life is more important than BT making a profit’ – East Budleigh’s rally cry to save phone box from cull

‘Saving a life is more important than BT making a profit’ – East Budleigh has hit out at the telecommunication giant’s plan to cull the village phone box.

East Budleigh Parish Council has rallied residents to lobby BT to retain the working High Street public landline telephone, fearing lives could be lost in an emergency because the village’s mobile phone signal is poor.

Council clerk Judith Lumsden said although the village saved the phone box several years ago, the public landline was ‘more important than ever now’.

BT has announced plans to scrap 18 underused phone boxes across East Devon; East Budleigh’s village centre kiosk is included in the cull. BT records show it has been used six times in the last 12 months.

Residents have backed the council’s concerns, calling the phone’s central location vital because it was adjacent to lifesaving equipment – a stone’s throw away from the village defibrillator, kids’ play park and community shop.

The next closest available landline to the defibrillator  belongs to East Budleigh’s community shop, which has set opening hours.

East Budleigh resident Elizabeth Goodwin said: “It could be a lifeline for somebody if they came out without their mobile phone and they needed to use the defibrillator and the shop was closed. We need the phone near the defibrillator.”

East Budleigh Parish Council said unless people object to BT’s proposal during its consultation period, the ‘valuable’ village feature will be removed at the end of September.

East Budleigh Parish Council clerk Judith Lumsden urged residents to make their views known to East Devon District Council after BT entered into a formal consultation with the local authority.

She has highlighted to BT the councillor concerns over the proposed loss of the telephone kiosk.

In a letter to the village, the clerk said: “I have sent in objections from the parish council stating that we need reliable phone communications as the phone box is adjacent to our defibrillator, village shop, village hall and children’s play area.

“If the defibrillator is needed, first contact has to be the emergency services. Our mobile phone reception is very poor and, in many cases, non-existent.

“And I am sure that saving a life is more important than BT making a profit.”

She added: “We saved our phone service a couple of years ago and it is more important than ever now.”

Knowle Road phone box, in Budleigh Salterton, has also been identified by BT as an underused kiosk, with three calls made in the last 12 months.

At the August town council meeting, Budleigh Salterton members voted to scrap the phone box.

Budleigh phone box

The BT payphone at Knowle, Budleigh Salterton, has been used three times in the last 12 months; the floor inside is covered in brambles.
Photo: EastDevonNews.co.uk

BT said communities are encouraged to adopt red ‘heritage’ phone boxes for £1 and turn them into assets for the area.

To object to the East Budleigh phone box removal, email spenes@eastdevon.gov.uk or call Ed Freeman on 01395 517519.

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