Is it the end for the Local Hero phone box at Pennan?

On screen it had a starring role at the heart of a community threatened by the interests of big business.

Now the red phone box at Pennan in Aberdeenshire, made famous by the 1983 comedy classic Local Hero, could soon be ringing out for the last time.

The future of the famous phone box is now under discussion after it was included on a BT list of 600 in Scotland that could be sold off for just £1.

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Seven classic moments from the film Local Hero
Actors Peter Riegert (Mac) and Chris Rozycki (Viktor) in Bill Forsyth classic Local Hero, which was partly shot in Pennan, Aberdeenshire. The phonebox was originally constructed as part of a set with a permanent working phone then installed nearby. Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

Residents of the tiny village are now campaigning to keep their phone box – a listed building - in working order given it serves as both a visitor attraction and a lifeline in in a place dogged by poor mobile reception.

Bill Kidd, vice chairman of New Aberdour, Tryie and Pennan Community Council, said “thousands” of people came to the village to have a photo taken by the phone box, with many visitors taking the chance to dial out from ‘Ferness 261’ – the number made famous by the film.

Mr Kidd said: "There is a very strong view in the village and the surrounding area that the phone box should remain a working phone box and it should not be adopted.

"There is not a proper mobile phone signal in Pennan, it’s not strong enough and that is the major concern if there is an emergency. There could be no choice, but to use the phone box.

“Also in the winter, the population goes right down if a visitor had an emergency then they might find it hard to locate a resident to use their phone.

"The phone box is a lifeline and if it was not there, it would put the village at risk.”

Mr Kidd said the famous phone box was “important to Pennan, and important to Scotland” given its role in the film.

He said: “A huge number of people visit Pennan for the phone box, so it brings economic benefit to the area. People come to have their picture taken by the phone box, pick up the receiver and to hear it is a working phone. Then many of them take the chance to make a call here.

“Even though it is a quirky little thing, these little things become big important things in a lot of ways. We should cherish them. Once the phone box is gone, it is gone.”

Under the BT ‘adopt a kiosk’ scheme, which seeks to dispose of underused phone boxes and hand them over to community groups or private landowners, an unknown local charity has come forward.

The idea – and the potential loss of the phone service – is now being consulted on by Aberdeenshire Council with similar schemes turning the red boxes into mini museums, libraries and defibrillator stores.

BT said an average of two calls a week had been made from the Pennan box over the past 12 months. Older figures were not available.

A spokesman for BT said: “We’ve received an application to adopt the Pennan kiosk, and as such we’re consulting with Aberdeenshire Council on the proposed removal of the telephone service inside the box. There are no plans to remove the kiosk.

“If the council says there is still a need for a payphone service, or wants to adopt the kiosk, it will stay.” 

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