Could our under threat red telephone boxes be granted a last minute reprieve?
Manx Telecom placed signs in six public phone kiosks informing customers that they would be removed from the beginning of this week (December 16).
iomtoday was then told the phone boxes – each with an annual revenue of under £10 – could remain if local authorities stepped in to pay for their ongoing maintenance , at an average annual cost of £585.
But now a number of local authorities have been told by Manx Telecom that it is trying to change its payphone guidelines with the Communications Commission - and that the phone boxes will not be removed until any changes have been agreed and the agreement forwarded to the local authorities for consideration.
Laxey Commissioners clerk Peter Burgess wrote to Manx Telecom saying the commissioners were opposed to the removal of the phone box at Laxey MER station – and asked for the structure to remain ‘so that it could be used for other purposes’.
He said the commissioners accepted the maintenance cost would fall on the local authority.
In its response, Manx Telecom said: ‘We are currently investigating this option, with the intention of drawing up the appropriate terms and agreements of sale (at a nominal amount), should any local authority wish to adopt a kiosk in this way.
‘For the avoidance of doubt, the payphone mechanism would be removed under these terms. Any changes to our payphone guidelines will be agreed through the Communications Commission.
‘Be assured we will not remove the kiosk until changes have been agreed and an agreement forwarded to Laxey Village Commissioners for consideration.’
Rushen Commissioners and Manx National Heritage have both said it would be inappropriate for public funds to be used to maintain the phone box or just the structure.
And they both believe there would be a health and safety risk in keeping the phone box structure – as people might try to use it in an emergency.
But Helen Ashcroft, heritage site manager at Cregneash, said MNH had asked Manx Telecom to consider the Cregneash phone box as a ‘special case’.
She said the phone box there could not be removed without planning permission as there is a restriction on permitted development in the area.
Malew Commissioners are due to discuss further the future of the phone box at Langness at its meeting on Wednesday.
Clerk Barry Powell said they would be unable to make a decision until any changes to Manx Telecom’s guidelines were confirmed.
He said Manx Telecom was considering removing the phones, and then selling the structures so they could be used for another purpose.
In the UK, under-used phone boxes have been turned into everything from a life-saving defibrillator to a tourist information point.
He said the commissioners agreed it was important there was a phone of some description at the bay for emergency use.
Santon Commissioners clerk Howard Benson said commissioners agreed the cost of maintaining the phone box on the New Castletown Road at Santon was too high.
However, Michael Begg of the Communications Commission said he was unaware that Manx Telecom was looking to change its payphone guidelines – but as regulator it was concerned with the public phone network, and not the phone boxes themselves.
An online petition launched by Christine Cowley, of Peel, against the removal of the phone boxes has more than 750 signatures.
The two other at risk phone boxes are in Maughold and Foxdale.
Manx Telecom was unavailable for comment.