RURAL payphones across North Yorkshire are to become "cashless" in a compromise that will mean hundreds will no longer face being axed.

British Telecom (BT) had planned to remove more than 200 payphones in North Yorkshire, but now it wants to get rid of only 11.

However, the firm is proposing that more than 150 public phones should become cashless - allowing people to make 999 calls, dial freephone numbers, reverse the charges through the operator and use BT charge cards.

BT says it would save money because coins would not have to be collected from phones.

Councillor Carl Les met BT chiefs to ask them to reconsider removing rural payphones in North Yorkshire.

He welcomed the compromise, saying: "BT has moved a long way and should be congratulated for listening to our concerns.

"They will now consult with local communities about making the phones cashless, which I am pleased about."

Councillors and residents argued that payphones were essential in rural areas because mobile phone coverage was either poor or non-existent.

Gordon Gresty, the county council's corporate director for business and community services, added in a report: "Following representations made by North Yorkshire County Council and other organisations, British Telecom revised their proposals for rural payphones.

"The current position is that BT intends to only remove 11 of North Yorkshire's payphones.

"These are mainly situated in more urban parts of the county, relatively near to other payphones."

He added: "BT is putting forward these proposals to make some phones cashless on the basis that they will overcome some of the concerns raised over removing payphones, while reducing the ongoing costs of maintenance of public telephones and thereby increasing their future viability."

BT will consult with North Yorkshire's district and parish councils, as well as the county council, before making any payphones cashless.

The phones that BT proposes to remove are: Castle Street, Skipton; Roche Avenue, Harrogate; St Hildas Road, Harrogate; Cawthorne Avenue, Harrogate; Olive Walk, Starbeck; Quarry Moor Lane, Ripon; Filey Road, Scarborough; Prospect Mount Road, Scarborough; Pavilion Forecourt, Southdene, Filey; Osgodby Way; Scarborough; Brook Street, Selby.