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Haverhill Town Council voices concerns over taxi policy changes proposed by West Suffolk Council



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Haverhill Town Council has shown support for some of the proposed taxi licence policy changes put forward for consultation by West Suffolk Council (WSC) but raised concerns about their potential impact.

The proposed changes are in response to the findings of an independent survey and study, carried out in the Autumn by WSC and the period of consultation is running until May 18.

WSC’s existing WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) policy, which has been in place for a number of years, requires taxi drivers, to have a WAV when replacing their vehicle.

Taxi drivers from Haverhill joined a demonstration against proposed changes to WAV rules outside West Suffolk Council offices in Bury last August. Picture: Mark Westley
Taxi drivers from Haverhill joined a demonstration against proposed changes to WAV rules outside West Suffolk Council offices in Bury last August. Picture: Mark Westley

Cabinet agreed to review this policy in September 2020 and in August last year, a month before the survey was due to launch, the council was presented with a petition and letter of concern by many taxi drivers.

The review looked at WAV provision, the advantages and disadvantages of merging the taxi zones (West Suffolk currently has two zones, Zone A for the former Forest Heath and B for the former St Edmundsbury) and the age of the fleet. Consideration was also given to future requirements of an environmentally friendly taxi fleet and the impact of Covid-19.

The independent survey asked taxi drivers, operators, wheelchair users, other disabled people and people who have mobility issues but would not identify themselves as being disabled, about their experience of WAVs.

Following the review the council has proposed a package of licensing changes to it Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Conditions Policy Handbook. These are:

1: To remove all WAV requirements for Hackney Carriage Vehicle (HCV) licensees

2: To merge the two existing taxi zones in West Suffolk into one single zone

3: To increase the maximum age of vehicle limit to 15 years old to allow more time for the trade to recover from the pandemic, and for advancements in EV charging technology, infrastructure and vehicle options. This new age limit would still mean those taxis emitting the highest carbon emissions would be removed from the roads in 2025.

In its response to the consultation, Haverhill Town Council said it has no objection to proposal one and supports proposals two and three.

But the council added: “Some councillors pointed to the inconsistency of WSDC expectations that merging the two zones would result in WAV provision ‘balancing out’ across the merged zones, but that taxis would stick to their home patch rather than roam further afield in search of busier towns.

“Haverhill Town Council is concerned that HCV charges have not been allowed to rise to reflect the additional fuel costs at this time, resulting in a reported significant drop in the availability of taxis.

“This policy may have a disproportionate impact on disabled people, particularly those relying on WAVs as they tend to be heavier and less fuel-efficient vehicles anyway.”