Cabbies protest outside council offices against taxi rank proposal
PUBLISHED: 16:51 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:04 29 March 2019
Taxi drivers, union leaders and Labour party representatives gathered with banners outside the council offices on Monday night in protest at proposals to move Welwyn Garden City's taxi rank.
The debate has rankled ever since Hertfordshire County Council proposed moving the rank from its current spot outside the Howard Centre on Fretherne Road, to Howardsgate’s one-way route.
The proposal is part of a wider county council initative that aims to “reduce traffic circulation, reduce traffic conflict, improve the environment for pedestrians and cyclists and to enhance the town centre experience,” according to a county council spokesperson. The deadline for objections closed on March 21, and the county council has received “a number” of representations. “We will now consider the impact of these representations and examine options to address issues raised,” said the representative. At a full council meeting on March 25, Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Rosie Newbigging called on the council to object to the proposal, backed up by Steve Garelick from the East of England branch of GMB trade union. In a question, she summarised the arguments against the moving of the taxi rank. She warned of risks to elderly, frail and disabled people who would have to cross a busy road to get a taxi. She also spoke of “the real concern that the alternative rank will not guarantee spaces for taxis, as enforcement of the reserved spaces will not be practical.” The council has also failed to consider the need for electric vehicle charging points at the new rank, she said. Speaking to the Welwyn Hatfield Times after the protest, she added: “One taxi driver told me that if the taxi rank moves it will put him out of business.” Portfolio holder for hackney carriages, Conservative councillor Fiona Thomson said that it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the matter at the moment as the county council is still undergoing a consultation on draft traffic regulation order as part of the proposals. “That said, we will of course continue to work closely with HCC to get a scheme to come forward that suits the majority,” she added.