Michael Fabricant says that local planning authorities should not be deprived of their power to veto moves to close pay-phones.
Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and , the shadow minister for industry and telecommunications, has written to Stephen Carter, chief executive of Ofcom, BT’s regulator, to ensure that this veto is not removed. This follows BT’s announcement that they plan to close 9,000 public pay-phone boxes in the wake of the huge increase in the numbers of mobile phones. 125 phone boxes have been earmarked for closure in Staffordshire.
In his letter, Mr Fabricant said: "It is important that Ofcom are not persuaded to remove the veto which currently allows local planning authorities to prevent pay-phone closures."
Mr Fabricant said: "I appreciate that phone boxes are costly to maintain, around £1,600 for each pay-phone per year, but they provide a valuable service, particularly where there is no mobile phone signal and where there are large immigrant and deprived communities.
"Besides, not everyone has a mobile phone on them, and in an emergency an available public phone box can spell the difference between life and death."
He said that 9% of all emergency phone calls to 999 were made from public boxes last year.
"While some public phone box closures are inevitable, local planning authorities must be fully consulted and continue to have the power to prevent closure of individual call boxes."
Michael Fabricant added: "It is important that the Government exerts its responsibility here. We do not want to see another debacle over the closure of public pay-phone boxes like the one we have seen with the closure, willy-nilly, of post offices around the country."