The Street, Lydiard Millicent, is a quintessential English Village scene. Country pub with beams, village pond (hopefully minus the carelessly discarded neon plastic sports bottles), and the traditional red telephone box.
The phone box in Lydiard is a K6, arguably the most icon model, introduced in 1936 and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. For years it’s been part of the street scene, a reminder of days gone by, when people passed it on their way to the post office or village shop, a time before fibre optic and the proliferation of mobile phones.
However, a question mark now hangs over its future.
Each year, the Parish Council pays BT a subsidy of £300 plus VAT to maintain the phone box. Back in 2010, the Council had sought villagers views on retaining the phone box. According to the Parish Council minutes then, “Opinion was unanimous” in keeping the box.
However recent usage figures reveal it’s not much used. One call was made in October 2015, one in April 2016. Overall, it’s seen about four minutes of usage to a Freephone number in the past year.
One resident, at least, has questioned whether the expenditure is a good use of money, particularly given that most of us now have mobile phones. At this month’s Parish Council meeting, they also drew attention to the fact that there would be an on-going maintenance cost to keeping the phone box, not least to keep it painted.
Consequentially, the Council has said that it will seek residents’ views, including alternatives.
One option would be for the Parish Council to buy the telephone box off British Telecom. BT offer a scheme whereby which Parish Council or community groups can adopt a telephone box for the nominal sum of £1, and put it to some other community use.
Imaginative uses have included a book drop, miniature art gallery, coffee kiosk and plant store. Other communities have used their decommissioned telephone box to house a defibrillator.
Purton made the decision to keep their telephone box, but to bring it up-to-date by installing wifi access. The box also contains information for visitors, and a web cam showing what is going on in the village to the rest of the world. (Yes, it really is possible to watch the Purton Village Hall car park in real time, just click on www.purtoncam.co.uk)
Elsewhere in our parish, Greenhill residents decided to adopt their local telephone box. The Greenhill box was reincarnated briefly as a book/magazine exchange, but now appears to be well-maintained but empty.
What do you think we should do with the telephone box in the Street? Now’s the chance to have your say. Just complete the on-line poll, or leave a comment.