British Telecom has removed a phone box that campaigners hoped to convert into a defibrillator station - without notice. That’s despite an agreement with the Council in response to a community campaign to re-purpose the kiosk on Sutherland Avenue in Mount Nod.
Support began to grow for the plan in August 2020 when the phone box was earmarked for removal by BT in August 2020 because of low usage. And just last month the Council agreed to take on ownership of the booth subject to the formation of a community group to take on long-term responsibility.
Several individuals and a residents’ group then came forward in response to a public appeal. They were set to enter discussions in the new year but now their hopes have been dashed by BT. However, the Council has now agreed to work with the community to see if there are other suitable sites nearby.
Defibrillators have become a common sight on the high street in recent years as other disused kiosks have been used in this way. It’s largely thanks to a scheme which allows local authorities, charities and community groups to take ownership for £1. Under the agreement BT pays for the electricity for the first seven years.
Last month Woodlands Ward Councillor Gary Ridley presented a petition in favour of the plan and said; “For a company that prides itself on communication this is pretty poor. They knew we were assembling a group that could make this work and they’ve just ignored us. It’s left me feeling really angry because this could have been a real asset to the community. And it’s been wonderful watching everyone rally round to support something which and really could have saved lives. What’s done is done but I will be contacting BT to try and understand this decision.”
Also backing the campaign was Cllr Peter Male who said: “This was a great idea and we’re very grateful to the local shops, pub and hairdressers for the support they’ve given. I’m extremely disappointed by this outcome but it has clearly sparked an interest from the community. I am happy to work constructively with the Council to see if a suitable alternative site can be found.”