100 Peterborough taxi drivers who protested at council offices celebrate after plans for private hire cab business refused
Around 100 taxi drivers in Peterborough celebrated tonight (Tuesday, June 29) after protesting outside the city council’s offices for much of the day over plans for a new private hire cab business.
Angry hackney carriage drivers descended on the council’s offices at Fletton Quays to protest against an application from Gujjar Investments Limited, to set up a minicab office in Westgate, at the site of the former Maplin store, opposite Beales, which had been recommended for approval by planning officers.
But after a dramatic day, which saw dozens of hackney carriages outside the authority’s Sand Martin House offices given parking tickets, councillors on the planning committee voted to turn down the plans.
The proposed new development would be a booking office and waiting area for people booking a private hire vehicle through the Autocab app.
The application had been recommended for approval despite 41 objections being received and the council’s own licensing team highlighting its opposition.
But councilors at the meeting refused the application by majority vote.
The PT also understands that a council officer met hackney carriage drivers outside and gave them an assurance that the parking tickets handed out during the protest would be rescinded.
Among the concerns that had been highlighted was the potential for conflict between hackney carriage and private hire drivers.
Private hire vehicles have to, by law, be pre-booked, while hackney carriage drivers can stop and pick up passengers.
Right outside the proposed office site, there is a hackney carriage taxi rank and concerns were raised about private-hire drivers being allowed to use the site to pick up passengers illegally.
Among the other objections raised by the Peterborough Hackney Driver’s Federation, in an open letter published by the Peterborough Telegraph, are the loss of business they would suffer, on top of having to already abandon the rank near the bus station due to competition from A2B’s nearby office, the negative impact to wheelchair users coming out of Queensgate and the impact to Peterborough’s work towards becoming a ‘green city.’
Hackney drivers have been encouraged to invest in greener, very expensive, electric cabs and say that the loss of their business would not encourage others to do the same and the city centre risks being flooded with more minicab offices and in turn, more pollution and anti-social behaviour.
Up to 100 hackney carriage drivers turned up at around 1:30pm, when the meeting was due to start, to make their thoughts known and were all given parking tickets, only for the council to later reverse their decision and cancel the tickets.
Speaking about the effect the new plans would have on disabled passengers, one of the protestors said: “This particular rank is right outside the Queensgate shopping centre, you have disabled people in wheelchairs coming out of there to a well-serviced rank, which has been there for over 30 years, and they jump in a black cab and they go home.
“What’s going to happen when black cabs are banned on that rank is they’ll be coming out, there will be no cars on that rank, they will have to go round in all weathers to another rank to get a cab. Even though there is a minicab office right beside Queensgate, there is no guarantee that there will be a vehicle available for them to jump in and go. So they will be waiting 10-15 minutes and it’s not fair for them.”
Another added: “We have no idea why Peterborough City Council is telling us to invest in green cars, which is £60,000 a vehicle, and then letting all the minicab firms from the surrounding area come and operate in Peterborough; this is a double standard.
“This is our livelihood, we’ve just been hit by a pandemic for the last 18 months and now the ranks are being taken away from us.”
To read the full open letter from the Peterborough Hackney Driver’s Federation, see: New Peterborough taxi office will ‘break drivers struggling from Covid’ - LETTER