Public opinion is being sought across the Highlands, after BT proposed to remove 110 public payphones from across the region.
The Highland Council has today launched an online consultation.
Regulation set out by Ofcom, the independent regulator, states that local authorities have the responsibility to co-ordinate consultations to gather views about proposed payphone removals.
The council is encouraging members of the public to look at BT’s proposals and comment, giving as much information as possible.
BT is consulting on plans to remove phone boxes, as it said usage had declined by more than 90% over the last decade as the popularity of mobile phones surged.
To comply with Ofcom guidelines the council will undertake a two-stage consultation where communities and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to object or agree to the proposed changes. The first stage will invite comments on the proposed removals.
Following the first stage, a first notice of decision will be published which will outline Highland Council’s initial position on the proposed removals. Communities and stakeholders will then be invited to consider the first notice of decision and then be given a further opportunity to comment on the proposed changes.
Highland Council leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: ‘Let’s be clear that this is BT’s proposals that we are consulting on and Highland Council is keen to know public opinion on all of these phones
‘It’s important that as many people as possible reply to the survey so that we can build an accurate picture of individuals’ and community views and needs.
‘I urge members of the public to respond to the consultation. People living in the areas of proposed closures are in the best position to know the impact the removal of a payphone would have on them and their community.’
The first stage of the consultation is available at: https://www.highland.gov.uk/consultations and will be open until 5pm on 18 September.
The consultation notes: ‘In areas with 3G / 4G mobile network coverage, emergency services can be contacted by mobile phone users at no cost. However, we are particularly concerned to identify which of the payphones proposed for closure should be retained for the following reasons: poor, sporadic, or lack of mobile network coverage at the location; and no alternative means of making emergency calls locally.’
In 2016, the highest phone box in the UK was saved from removal after a campaign to keep it. It sits at the base of the ski-slope in the Cairngorms.
For further information or questions about the consultation, please contact the Highland Council Policy Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01463 702 006.