COMMUNITY leaders in the Borders have welcomed BT's decision to spare 100 threatened phone boxes in the region.

The Border Telegraph revealed in September that the communications giant was looking axe the majority of its public payphone service as usage continued to decline.

BT listed a total of 104 of its 161 phone boxes in the region on the hit list.

Amongst them were five phone boxes in Galashiels, three in Selkirk, three in Melrose and others in Gattonside, Darnick, Clovenfords, Ashkirk, Bowden, Newstead, Lauder, Stow, Fountainhall and Innerleithen.

But community leaders hit back claiming the kiosks are often a much-needed back up in times of emergency and in areas where mobile phone reception is poor.

And this week bosses at BT confirmed they will now decommission only four phones in the entire Borders region.

Local councillor Stuart Bell told us: "Every community council in Tweeddale where I discussed the proposed phone box closures was alarmed that what is seen as a life line service might be lost.

"The principal worry was that when there is a power outage, and these are typically when we experience extremes of weather, there can be no other means of communicating than the local phone kiosk.

"We took this issue to Scottish Borders Council to get their support to stop the closures, and I am really pleased that BT has seen sense and agreed with the council recommendation to save the Tweeddale phone boxes.

"I am sure that many in our communities will be relieved."

During storms over the past few winters many of the threatened phone boxes were used to report road blockages due to flooding and fallen trees.

And they are often seen as an assurance for motorists when driving through mobile signal blackspots.

But many of the phones are only used on a handful of occasions each year.

Guidelines set out by regulator Ofcom allow BT to remove a phone box if it has been used less that 12 times in the past year, if the surrounding population is less that 500, or if there is another working payphone within half a mile.

The four phone boxes which will be decommissioned in the coming months are at Polwarth, near Greenlaw, Simprim, near Coldtsream, Lanton, near Jedburgh, and Longnewton, near St Boswells.

A spokeswoman for BT told us: "We initially proposed to remove in the region of 1,500 payphones - 30 per cent of the current estate - in Scotland over the next three years.

"All of these followed Ofcom’s consultation process for payphone removal, unless there was another payphone within 400 metres, when the process was not required.

"Where we received objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone.

“We’re committed to providing a public payphone service but demand just isn’t there anymore.

"With usage declining by more than 90 per cent in the last decade, we’ve continued to review and, where necessary, rationalise our payphone estate to continue to meet remaining customer demand and manage our costs."