NORTH Devon and Torridge district councils have responded to BT's proposals to axe 85 phone boxes across the two districts. Last month, BT said it had applied to the two local authorities for permission to remove 47 of Torridgeside's 111 kiosks, and 38 of

NORTH Devon and Torridge district councils have responded to BT's proposals to axe 85 phone boxes across the two districts.Last month, BT said it had applied to the two local authorities for permission to remove 47 of Torridgeside's 111 kiosks, and 38 of the 154 in North Devon.The company said that use of public pay phones had halved in the past two years, predominantly because of the use of mobile phones.Following a period of public consultation, North Devon Council's community development officer Hannah Harrington, said that given the concerns raised, the council had urged BT to retain the payphones wherever possible, particularly in rural villages where mobile signals were weak."The majority of the replies received were from people concerned about the potential loss of payphones in rural areas with poor mobile phone signals," she said."There were some particular concerns that the loss of a payphone adjacent to a Instow beach may have an impact on safety and that a payphone in East Worllington was part of the emergency fire procedure for the village hall."Another payphone is adjacent a school in Marwood, which the police consider should be retained."Meanwhile, Torridge District Council leader James Morrish said: "Although we realise that in today's society, a lot of our residents have new modern ways of communication, like mobile phones and the internet, we are very aware that in many parts of our rural communities there is a very poor reception signal. "We also have significant areas of deprivation, and phone boxes are an important part of some people's lives. "We believe very clearly that closures should not be about a 'Big Brother' deciding which ones should stay and which ones should go purely on their volume of usage."BT spokesman Jason Mann said that the company would now be looking at all the responses coming in from councils across the country."It's a big job and going to take some time," he told the Gazette on Monday."We want to go through what people have told us in detail - thoroughly, consistently and fairly."BT said that while some of the kiosks concerned would be of the 'red box' type, many would not. Those that were 'listed' as of architectural value would not be affected, said Mr Mann.