Frustration at Swanton Abbott’s Wesleyan Reform Church over lack of a phone line - despite three telegraph poles within 20 metres

Peter Mitchell, pastor of Swanton Abbott Wesleyan Reform Church. One of the nearby telegraph pole ca

Peter Mitchell, pastor of Swanton Abbott Wesleyan Reform Church. One of the nearby telegraph pole can be seen to the left and the church building is to the right. Picture: Stuart Anderson - Credit: Archant

A church pastor fears the lack of a phone line at his place of worship could be putting his congregation in danger.

And the situation at Swanton Abbott's Wesleyan Reform Church is all the more difficult because of a lack of mobile phone reception in the area.

Pastor Peter Mitchell has been calling for Openreach to connect the church to the phone network using one of three telegraph poles which are within 20 metres of the building.

But Openreach has said this is not possible, and another telegraph pole would have to be installed, costing the church £1,676.

Mr Mitchell said: 'I worry because I have an aging congregation and if they have an accident while they're here, we would have no way to call for an ambulance. We would have to run up the road to find a neighbour with a phone line.

'We already have three telegraph poles nearby, one which goes past our chapel to a house behind, so why couldn't they use that?'

Mr Mitchell said the church could end up fundraising for a new pole, but they were frustrated there was no explanation as to why one of the existing poles could not be used.

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He said: 'What we're annoyed about is the fact that they haven't told us why.'

Over the past few years there has been an extensive refurbishment of the church, which was opened in 1856 and is the only Wesleyan Reform Union chapel left in the region.

Mr Mitchell said: 'This is the last piece of the puzzle we need to bring us into the 21st century.'

He said the chapel had 12-15 weekly worshipers, and also held a study group, village meetings and coffee mornings which attracted about 25 people.

An Openreach spokesman said their obligation to provide a phone line to everybody who needed one did not apply to churches.

The spokesman said: 'We have a universal service obligation (USO) to provide a basic telephone service to everybody who requires a fixed line.

'Unfortunately, this does not apply to churches and after investigation we can confirm that the charges quoted still apply.'

Mr Mitchell said he had already contacted North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb over the matter, and was considering appealing to BT or industry watchdog Ofcom.