CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Drug addicts’ tied up in iconic red telephone box by fed-up neighbour

Red phone box may look nice - but residents say it is used more for drug use than calls

04 May, 2017 — By William McLennan

The telephone box in Agar Grove

THEY are an icon of British design and feature in countless holiday snaps alongside Big Ben and the Tower of London, but in Agar Grove the classic red phone box has been labelled a “magnet” for drug users.

Some of those living by the weather-worn box near York Way have called for it to be ripped out this week, but others said it should be spruced up and then locked shut. It comes after one Agar Grove resident decided to take matters into his own hand and locked two alleged drug users inside the box using a blue rope.

Police were called and freed the men. Taeti Antiqui, who lives opposite, said the box, which no longer contains a phone and is missing several panes of glass, had been a persistent nuisance and should be removed. “Every night there are people in there and they are quarrelling at about 1 or 2am,” she said. “I don’t know what they are doing, but they are converging there and shouting.”

Jasper Warwick, of nearby Cantelowes Road, suggested the phone box be removed, repaired and relocated to King’s Cross where it could be enjoyed by visitors and protected by security guards. “They are nice things to have, but they should keep it to central London where there are tourists,” he said. “I think they are one of those things that have had their day. It has no function any longer. No one in this day and age uses a phone box and it just become a bit of a magnet for drug addicts.”

Petro Panas, however, believes the box should be retained, but locked close to prevent anti-social behaviour. He said: “It’s a lovely feature and you don’t see many of them anymore. But it’s not been well looked after. It looks very sad to be honest, but I wouldn’t want to see it go altogether.”

Cantelowes ward councillor Phil Jones said he had received several complaints in recent weeks and has asked council officers to investigate what can be done, “including whether it can be locked shut,” he said. “It is a listed structure in a conservation area, so I wouldn’t want to see it removed altogether,” he added.

A spokesman for BT, which owns the box, said it was “investigating the anti-social behaviour”. Phone boxes across the borough are due to removed this year and replaced by around 100 “Links” – which are described by BT as “sleek, ultramodern kiosks” that feature free wi-fi and phone calls, paid for by advertising displayed on the “Links”.

BT executive Gerry McQuade said they were “evolving the phone box to make it relevant in the 21st century”, beginning in Camden this year before being extended across the capital.

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