Landowner banishes call box to save verges

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The Independent Online
A WILTSHIRE landowner has angered local families by banishing the only public telephone from their village.

Rodbourne, near Malmesbury, with a population just under 100, is largely owned by Sir John Pollen, who lives at the Manor House, the family seat for two centuries. His domain includes the village green where a kiosk has stood for more than 30 years.

But Sir John, 72, objected to motorists churning up his grass verges when they stopped to make a call. 'I told BT to remove it and suggested they put it somewhere else. But they said they didn't want to do that because it was totally uneconomic,' he said. 'Things came to a head in May. When people parked their vehicles there, they stopped the silage lorries getting through. Anyway, almost every home in the village has its own telephone.'

One parish councillor, who asked not to be named, said: 'Even if people do have their own phones, it is convenient to have the call box in an emergency. As for people parking on the verges, that is country life. If you want pavements all over the place, you should go and live in the town.'

Melvyn Cox, a spokesman for British Telecom, denied that it refused to re-site the box because it was uneconomic. 'It wasn't the most heavily used phone box in the world but it was providing a public service. We didn't want to deprive the local community of a kiosk. We have looked around for an alternative site but there is nothing available. It is the Nimby syndrome. If anyone would like to come up with a site we would be happy to look at it.'