Six new retail units and taxi office plans approved in Peterborough despite concerns over anti-social behaviour

A planning application for six new retail units on Westgate, including a new taxi booking office, has been approved despite concerns it could be a focus for anti-social behaviour.

By Rob Alexander
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 4:37 pm

Members of the city council Planning and Environmental Protection Committee gave the go-ahead for the application despite its previous refusal on grounds “…it would bring additional people into the area late at night, resulting in the potential for crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) in the vicinity of Westgate and thereby would not comprise a positive contribution to the character of the area.”

Speaking at the meeting (Tuesday, January 25) ward councillor Cllr Mohammed Jamil said: “I realise that the applicant has made a fresh application with amendments to the one previously refused however, while officers are recommending approval, I feel I cannot support the inclusion of the taxi rank booking office which has the potential to cause ASB and crime in that area late at night.

“I have nothing personal against the applicant nor the other commercial units in the application including the restaurant.

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Cllr Mohammed Jamil at the meeting.

“But this is an area already served by many other taxi ranks with the next nearest taxi office just 100 yards away.

“In addition, the police have stated ‘…being directly adjacent to a Hackney Carriage taxi rank, these ranks are for hackney carriages to wait and lawfully ply for hire. If the private hire drivers park nearby and wait for or collect customers here it is likely to provoke disputes or ASB incidents’.”

“We’ve received 70 responses from members of the public regarding this application, of which 64 are objecting – which I believe says volumes and should be taken into consideration when making a decision

“In this new application, the applicant puts forward the idea of marshalls and CCTV to ‘police’ the area and keep late-night, alcohol-fuelled ASB to a minimum.

Objecting on behalf of the taxi trade was Mr Amran Masood.

“I think the fact that the applicant even mentions the idea of marshalls in the area says that he is expecting some kind of trouble to arise.

“This then leads us to the question of what roles will these marshalls have? Will they be inside, outside, and what powers will they be given?

“In just the last year there were 132 acts of crime and 62 instances ASB in that vicinity, and I believe that putting another taxi office there which isn’t even needed, will just add to the possibility of problems arising.

“Our own taxi-licencing department has voiced its opposition to this application – and remember, these are the people who give out the badges and know how the taxi business works.

“So, for me, they’re the experts; and if they’re saying this is not a good idea through highlighting the fact there are only four disabled bays there, and none for anybody to stop and actually pick up a taxi passenger – then I think those are grounds the committee must listen to.”

Cllr Christian Hogg asked : “On a point of clarity, you mentioned the other taxi booking office just up the road, but that is on the other side of the road, isn’t it?

“So, presumably any taxis collecting passengers would do so coming from the other direction, is that not the case?”

Cllr Jamil replied: “Yes, that is correct.”

Chair, Cllr Peter Hiller said: “You mentioned that the applicant has offered the services of marshalls to be positioned either inside or outside the premises, should it be approved.

“Give the reason for the refusal of the last application was ASB, would it not occur to the man in the street that Marshalls might be a counter to that potential problem rather than a threat?”

Cllr Jamil replied: “My thinking is that when you say you have to have marshalls is almost like you’re saying, ‘well there’s going to be trouble and these guys would try and sort it out beforehand’ – it’s like having ‘bouncers’ in a nightclub where there’s still trouble both inside and outside, even though they’re there and will not deter anybody who is going to commit an act of crime or ASB from doing it.”

Chair Hiller responded: “I thank you for drawing the analogy with ‘bouncers’ in a nightclub – from my limited knowledge of nightclubs, they’re there to address problems rather than to prevent problems.”

Objecting on behalf of the taxi trade was Mr Amran Masood who said: “We strongly feel that through the implementation of these extra measures outlined in the new application will make no difference to the on-going ASB issues in the city centre.

“CCTV already exists in the Westgate area, yet we still receive ASB incidents and taxi Marshalls, and door-staff already exist in nightclubs, pubs, and at the ranks and they do little to stop the ASB problems.

“All the taxi bookings in Peterborough are already served through digital bookings on a taxi app on a mobile phone which totally defeats the object of having yet another taxi booking office in that area, so the last thing we want is more intoxicated people hanging around a booking office late at night simply increasing the potential for ASB and crime.

“We are fully in agreement with the police report that states this area attracts ASB and crime already and we strongly feel that the crucial element that has been overlooked is the parking situation which clearly shows our daily struggles with private vehicles, delivery vans and even other private hire cars using the ranks.

“This is a serious matter as we face daily threats and verbal abuse from other drivers illegally parked and leaving their vehicles unattended on the ranks.

“We state therefore that by granting this application we believe it will lead to more confrontations, more ASB, more crime in the area including safety concerns for our drivers and of course our passengers.”

However, Cllr Ishfaq Hussein said: “If we are to be a progressive city – and we say that we want to attract more and more people to come to Peterborough – then I think it is important that we make it as easy as possible to come here and when they are here to get around the city; so I think we should grant this application.”

Members voted by majority of 6 for to 4 against, to approve the application.