RESIDENTS on a new South Tyneside estate fear they are being cut off from the world after being left without phone lines for months.
Families living on the new Beechbrooke development, in Simonside, South Shields, say they still don’t have phone connections in their homes – despite moving in almost three months ago – and are clocking up expensive mobile bills as a result.
BT has apologised for the delay on the estate – which is made up of 122 homes, including 20 bungalows – and says it hopes to be able to provide a service by next month.
But local councillors have described the situation as “unacceptable” and “inexcusable”.
Among those affected are retired couple Billy and Margaret Horn, who moved into a bungalow in Collin Drive on April 20 and still don’t have a phone connection.
Mr and Mrs Horn, who have seven grandchildren, said they were not told before they moved into the bungalow that there was no phone line, and now they’re running up huge mobile phone bills in order to keep in contact.
Mrs Horn, 66, a former cook, said she also worries for elderly residents who live on their own and don’t have mobile phones.
Although BT has apologised for the delay, the couple, who also live with their son Neil, 32, could be without a connection for another month.
Mrs Horn said: “We moved in on April 20 and we weren’t made aware that there was no phone line.
“We were just told that there wasn’t the facility for Virgin Media so we would have to have Sky fitted, which wasn’t a problem.
“Someone from Sky came out to fit everything but said that he was really sorry that he couldn’t fit our internet or phone because there was no connection.
“We’ve had meetings with the housing trust and written to the MP, Emma Lewell-Buck, who has written to BT on our behalf, and no one will take responsibility for it. We keep getting told a date and then nothing happens.
“We woke up one day and there was someone outside putting a wire in.
“We got excited thinking that the phone line was being put in but it still hasn’t.
“ It says a lot when you get that excited about a phone line.”
Mrs Horn, who is currently waiting for a hip replacement and suffers from arthritis in her spine, says making hospital appointments has proven difficult.
She said: “It’s costing a fortune to ring the hospital all of the time from the mobile, but I worry more though about the elderly residents who are living on their own and have no contact with anyone.
“We aren’t experts with mobile phones but some others can’t even use them. If they have a fall, how are they meant to contact anyone for help?”
Mr Horn, 67, who worked in telecommunications, added: “I used to only put about £20 a year on my mobile phone and now it’s costing about £10 to £15 a week.
“We’ve got family that we need to stay in touch with, and ringing around to try to get our phone line sorted is costing us a fortune.
“We just want someone to stand up and take responsibility for it and get it sorted.”
Mrs Horn added: “The bungalow is beautiful and we love it but this has really dampened it for us.”
Another resident, who didn’t want to be identified, says a phone call could mean the difference between life and death.
The 64-year-old grandmother-of-one has had three brain operations and was in hospital for three months last year.
She currently has a brain aneurysm waiting to be treated, and she lives on her own.
She said: “If I took a bad turn, speed is off the essence.
“If I can’t speak to someone it’s the difference between life and death, and I think I am one of the youngest residents here.
“Looking at some of the others it is just unkind to some of them. I have told them how dangerous it is for the residents.
“They are not in the best of health. We want it sorting as soon as possible.”