Taxi chief pleads for Fenland Council to dismiss proposed rank schemes next week
BATTLE lines were once again drawn at a Fenland council meeting as the chairman of Wisbech and District Hackney Carriage Drivers Association pleaded for taxis to remain on the Horsefair Bus Station. But Dave Patrick s pleas could next week fall on deaf ea
BATTLE lines were once again drawn at a Fenland council meeting as the chairman of Wisbech and District Hackney Carriage Drivers Association pleaded for taxis to remain on the Horsefair Bus Station.
But Dave Patrick's pleas could next week fall on deaf ears because Fenland District Council's licensing committee is set to pick one of three schemes that will see the current system scrapped.
Weeks of consultation have ended with the council drawing up three options:
• Retain two taxis in the Horsefair, scrap the waiting area and create on-street ranks across the town.
• Create a new rank in East Place next to The Case pub including a drop-off/waiting area in Canal Street.
• Retain two taxis on the Horsefair and create additional ranks in Canal Street and East Place.
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The options come despite protests from taxi drivers, Wisbech Town Council, Wisbech Chamber of Commerce and The Case.
Mr Patrick, however, is refusing to give up - and he called for the licensing committee to reject all three options when he spoke at yesterday's Cabinet meeting in support of a petition he presented at the full council meeting on November 5.
He said: "What is the council going to do with what was our waiting area? It has little potential for any other use except maybe for large buses to reverse with difficulty into the area.
"If two of the proposals allow us to continue to use the ranks, why take away the waiting area? Us waiting there to go over to the rank is a better option than taxis continually circling the roundabout and continually riding on and off the Horsefair in the hope of an empty rank space.
"The Horsefair has operated in its present format for years without any serious incidents at all with relation to the taxis and no member of the public has ever been injured in a taxi-related incident in that area.
"The cost of the scheme to develop the area around The Case is estimated to be around �75,000. Is this money that could be considered well-spent when we are at present in such difficult financial times? With council revenues expecting to drop and savings of �2million being sought is this really a time to fix something that is not really broke?
"Why common sense cannot be allowed to prevail I have absolutely no idea but then maybe this smacks of Big Brother: you do as we say with absolutely no consideration of what the people of Wisbech want."
Councillors referred the petition to next Tuesday's licensing committee meeting as part of the consultation.
But Councillor Simon King said: "If we don't redevelop the site by The Case it is quite possible that at some point in the future we will be forced to move the taxis from the Horsefair. If we don't have somewhere else we are going to be in a far worse situation.
"We ought to develop that site and ought to allow the drivers and customers to choose where they pick up their taxis."
He added: "A lot of this has been driven not by Fenland, but by legislation made elsewhere (the European Union) and by the demands of Cambridgeshire County Council.
"It is a very difficult balancing act, but we must in my view develop The Case area because we could easily be left with no taxi spaces at all."
Councillor Mac Cotterell said: "The licensing committee has an extremely difficult task. Whatever decision it comes to will be wrong.
"I am not sure putting the taxis behind The Case is the right answer. It may cause further problems in the future.