Telegraph e-paper

Library in a phone box shut down by officials

A TRADITIONAL red telephone box used as a library by villagers for four years has been forced to shut because officials say it needs planning permission.

The phone box, which housed more than 800 books, closed this month following a stern warning that it breaches planning rules.

Val Empson, 71, who opened the library with her husband Bob, was told she now faces a £400 bill to apply for planning consent.

“The phone box has become a real icon of the community with everyone coming together to borrow books,” she said.

Mrs Empson bought the formerly run-down phone box as a birthday present for her husband in 2011.

After restoring it, Mr Empson installed the phone box on the forecourt of the couple’s car garage in Elsworth, Cambridgeshire.

“We thought it would be nice to have a use for it and that’s when we came up with the idea for the library,” she said.

Over four years, the phone box amassed a huge collection of books. But Elsworth Village parish council was told by South Cambridgeshire district council that the phone box needed planning permission for a change of use at a cost of £400, and Mrs Empson has now put her case forward to the council.

“It’s a free, treasured part of the community and I hope they will recognise that,” she said. “It’s on private land and is a staple of village life. We are hoping they see sense.”

A spokesman for the council said: “Change of use can be required when a phone box is converted from a working pay phone to community use, such as a library. We wanted to help Mrs Empson, so are arranging for a member of our planning team to get in touch.”





Daily Telegraph