COMMUNICATIONS giant BT is locked in talks over whether to remove several phone boxes in Huddersfield.

The company announced in 2002 that it had decided to axe payphones in the area which were seldom used.

It says 45 phone boxes face the chop, but it is still talking to parish councils about objections to the removals.

Before BT can remove any phone box it goes through a consultation process agreed with the telecommunications watchdog Ofcom.

It cannot remove a kiosk without the agreement of the main council in the area or parish council.

BT says there are 442 phone boxes in Kirklees. It intends to maintain 397, including 49 loss-making ones.

But it wants to remove 45 boxes which it says are seldom used. Objections have been received about the possible removal of eight boxes.

Mirfield's Mayor Clr Martyn Bolt said the losses were "another nail in the coffin of public service."

He said: "Despite increased ownership of mobile phones, reception is not always possible in outlying areas.

"In emergency situations a public phone could be a lifesaver if there was an accident and mobile phone reception was out of range."

There were also increasing problems with mobile phone thefts, he added.

BT started the consultation last June by writing to parish councils and putting notices in the affected kiosks.

Denby Dale, Mirfield, Holme Valley and Kirkburton parish councils have lodged complaints about the possible loss of boxes in their areas.

Paul Hendron, director of BT Payphones, said: "People in Kirklees may have concerns about our plans to reduce the number of payphones.

"But BT is still committed to the service, particularly for communities who need us most."

Phone boxes about which parish councils have objected to their removal are: Long Lane, Clayton West; Manor Drive, Skelmanthorpe; Station Road, Skelmanthorpe; Jackroyd Lane, Mirfield; Kirkroyds Lane, New Mill; Cliffe Road, Shepley; Dover Lane, Cartworth; the junction of North Road and Penistone Road, Kirkburton.

Another BT spokesman said: "Where objections have been received we will continue to discuss the objections until they can either be resolved or if it is clear that they cannot be resolved.

"If they cannot be resolved the payphone will not be removed.

"Where no objections have been received the payphones will be removed in due course," the spokesman added.

* The number of calls made from BT payphones has almost halved in the last three years and revenue has dropped by 40%.

* Almost 60% of the 70,000 BT phone boxes do not cover their costs.

* Only 1% of UK homes do not have access either to a fixed line or a mobile phone.

* Some 93% have a fixed line, 79% a fixed line and a mobile phone and 6% a mobile phone only.