Andrew’s call to renovate Sidbury phone box answered

Andy Webb is hoping they can turn the phone box at Burnt Oak in Sidbury that is currently almost hid

Andy Webb is hoping they can turn the phone box at Burnt Oak in Sidbury that is currently almost hidden among the vegetation into a book borrowing hub. Ref shs 5695-45-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A Sidbury man is set to turn an ‘eyesore’ piece of street furniture back into an icon of British culture now civic leaders have agreed to adopt it.

The red phone box at Burnt Oak is camouflaged by the hedge and only just discernible, but Andrew Webb hopes to breathe new life into it as somewhere to swap books.

BT put a note up two years ago saying the structure would be removed. It has not acted – giving Sidmouth Town Council the chance to adopt it for just £1.

“At the moment it’s an eyesore and very much neglected,” said Andrew, 70, who is best known in the village for his collection of 100 vintage bicycles. It’s iconic – it’s one of the things people recognise England for.

“It’s a shame, and a bad advertisement for that part of the village. I’m sure the Britain in Bloom judges would question it.”

The Sidbury resident of 40 years said he plans to consult with residents on what they want, and hopes to install a bench for the nearby bus stop - and perhaps some flower pots.

He is following in the footsteps of Keith Craddock and Evan Rosevear, who renovated Fortescue’s phone box and turned it into a book borrowing hub.

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Voting in favour of adopting the phone box at Monday’s town council meeting, ward member Councillor David Addis said: “Compared to the one in Fortescue, it is a disgrace. It doesn’t look good at all. I would recommend we accept the proposal.”

Cllr Jack Brokenshire questioned how its future upkeep could be ensured, but chairman Jeff Turner said they should take the risk to preserve a ‘quintessential piece of street architecture’.

Cllr Ian McKenzie-Edwards added: “The more we move towards mobile phone usage the less they [phone boxes] are going to be seen – unless this sort of thing happens.

“If any others come up, they are worth supporting too.”