Northumberland plans to remove old landlines and phone boxes halted due to Storm Arwen review

Plans to remove traditional landlines and phone boxes in rural Northumberland have been put on hold amid an ongoing review into Storm Arwen. 

Northumberland County Council launched the review earlier this year to learn the lessons from its response to the event, which left thousands of homes without power in November and December 2021.

Eighty-five external submissions have been submitted as the review reaches its final stages – including from residents, town and parish councils, the voluntary sector, councillors, and MP’s. 

They included concerns over BT's plan to phase out traditional copper landline phones and replace them with digital fibre optic ones. Halting the plan is a move endorsed by Council Leader Glen Sanderson.

"These plans had caused us some alarm as we know only too well the issues caused by loss of power during Storm Arwen," he said.

"The ability for people in some of our remotest communities to use traditional landlines or public phone boxes, is essential especially in emergency situations like when mains electric fails. 

"And while we appreciate the need for technology to develop and the benefits that brings there still needs to be a solution which can work for everyone in times of crisis – including those who’ve already had copper landlines removed."

A fallen power line caused by Storm Arwen shows the extent of the damage Credit: PA

Also as part of the review, a number of evidence gathering sessions have been held, with input from utility companies, the emergency services and council teams.

Councillor Jeff Reid, who is chairing the review, said: "We’re progressing well and are grateful for everyone who has made the effort to contributed so far – whether that’s with written evidence or in person.

"It’s been a very detailed study into all the events of November and December to capture everything that went well and also where things can improve in dealing with future incidents.

"Once all the evidence sessions are complete, hopefully at the end of this month, we will bring together all the information into a final report with recommendations we can action and take forward."