Third of public phone boxes in Wales could be removed

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Media captionIs it the end for Wales' remaining phone boxes?

The future of almost a third of Wales' remaining phone boxes is in doubt.

BT is proposing to scrap 566 public payphones following a 90% reduction in their usage over the last decade.

One earmarked for removal in Cwmafan, near Port Talbot, has not had a call made from it in the last 12 months. But another in Neath has been used 292 times in the same period.

People are being urged to adopt boxes to create something "inspirational".

Image caption A first aid kit, reference books and maps inside a phone box in Eryrys, Denbighshire

Some of the 5,000 kiosks that have already been repurposed across the UK have been turned into tiny art galleries, libraries and life-saving defibrillator stores.

But Neath Port Talbot councillor John Warman described plans to remove payphones across Wales as "deplorable".

"What BT are doing is putting a death sentence on phone boxes across the country," he said.

Image caption A phone box in Barry Island, Vale of Glamorgan, is just one potentially facing removal

"Not everybody has the luxury of a landline or a mobile phone.

"They are a lifeline still for a number of people and for emergency use as well."

But Phil Sergeant, who has been involved in refurbishing an old phone box on the high street in Caerleon, near Newport, to hold a defibrillator, disagrees.

"It's a reflection on modern society where everyone has their own phone… the requirement for these devices has long gone, they need to be put to new purposes," he said.

Image caption A phone box has been repurposed to house a defibrillator on Caerleon's high street

"People want to maintain these things, they're part of the community," he says.

"Hopefully this will be an asset to the community which may one day save somebody's life."

Speaking at Cwmafan's phone box that has not been used for the past year local councillor Rhidian Mizen described it as "surplus to requirements".

"I don't think there are many homes now that haven't got a mobile phone so obviously [for BT] the upkeep and the cost of it is too much for them," he said.

"There is a need for people who've got a bad signal but maybe not so many of them."

Image caption Rhidian Mizen says many phone boxes are "surplus to requirements"

BT said it had taken a range of issues into account before drawing up proposals to remove the phone boxes including usage, availability of other payphones and the strength of mobile phone signal in the areas concerned.

The company said no phone boxes would be removed unless approval was granted by the relevant local council.

BT's consultation ends on 28 October.

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