DERELICT red phone boxes in three villages have been restored and given a new lease of life with the installation of defibrillators at a cost of £7,700.

Simon Hutchings, chairman of Creech St Michael Parish Council and volunteer caretaker of the kiosk in Creech Heathfield, said: "Our first defibrillator was located in the village pub, but there wasn’t 24-hour access – if the pub was closed the defibrillator was no longer accessible.

"So it seemed like the perfect solution – to renovate the lovely old telephone boxes and give them a practical use at the same time."

Maggie Machin, volunteer caretaker of the phone box in Ham, said: "We’ve worked hard to raise the funds to restore the telephone boxes, and we were very lucky that a professional artist happened to be staying with a friend in the village for a few days and offered to paint the outside of the phone box."

The third kiosk in Creech St Michael is looked after by Nathaniel and Rowan Finch overseen by their mother, Dee.

Technical guidance and expertise for the project has been provided by Heartstart Somerset, a scheme co-ordinated by the British Heart Foundation to teach people the skills needed in a life-threatening emergency.

The bill was met by contributions from Creech St Michael Parish Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and fundraising events.

The Deane's Defibrillator Fund has awarded grants totalling more than £11,000 to the villages of Corfe (£1,000), Creech St Michael, Creech Heathfield and Ham (£1,000), Durston (£756), Otterford (£958), Pitminster (£1,000), Ruishton and Thornfalcon (£1,000), Sampford Arundel (£1,000), Stoke St Mary (£1,000), West Hatch (£576), and West Monkton (£1,000). as well as to Taunton Theatre Association Ltd (£960) and Wellington and District Sports Federation (£800).

Cllr Jane Warmington, executive councillor for community leadership at TDBC, said: "It is reassuring that another village has been supported to install a defibrillator which could help save lives and provide some reassurance for local residents. A newly painted old red telephone box makes the perfect home for it."