A LISTED phone box in Purton has been redesigned as a modern communications hub – the first of its kind in the country.
The box outside Purton Library was opened yesterday by North Wiltshire MP James Gray, after Purton Parish Council and Lde Communications worked for more than 18 months to restore it.
After buying the iconic red box from BT for £1, Lde worked to bring bluetooth and wireless internet access to the area.
Phone calls will be free, and webcams have been installed for the parish council use and to deter vandals.
Julio Wideboer, the managing director of Lde Communications, based in Braydon, said:“We believe this is the first one of its kind in the country. There are other people dabbling with the same idea, but this is the first one to go the whole way.
“In villages like this there are few places you can go to get internet access. “With the price of telephony coming down, there is no reason not to let people make free phone calls within reason. Effectively we have just taken it to the next evolution.”
Lde struggled to get consent from BT, and had to navigate listed building restrictions to keep the phone box in its original state.
“We were allowed to do what we wanted inside within reason, as long as we left the outside intact,” Julio said.
“This was designed as a communications device and we have just taken it to the next stage. “These boxes are admired all around the world, and too many are going to waste.”
Ray Thomas, the chairman of Purton Parish Council, said: “The box was dilapidated, and the panes of glass were broken. It was a totally neglected phone box.
“We had to make sure we could still do this within listed building consent. The village hall itself is a listed building, so the box is listed by association. MP James Gray received the first call from the box.
“I am a strong supporter of these phone boxes,” he said. “They are part of Britain, and are a brilliant piece of British design which we should celebrate,.
“I find myself constantly in need of finding a wi-fi connection. Making modern use of an old piece of technology is exactly what we should be doing.
“I would like Purton to be leading the way across Britain in this scheme.”