The Executive Director of Neighbourhoods and Communities submitted a report that sought approval on the implementation of permanent changes to the arrangements for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles in Wilson Street, to permanently adopt the use of Taxi Marshals in this area, that organised taxi queues, assisted members of the public and reduced congestion at peak times.
The stretch of Wilson Street between Albert Road and Linthorpe Mews could be extremely congested at peak times, generally in the early hours of the morning on weekends. The congestion primarily arose from the large number of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles in this location which were attracted by members of the public who visited the numerous late night bars and takeaways in the area. Since 2008 there had been three hackney carriage ranks located within this stretch of Wilson Street, which were operational between 7pm and 4am daily. In addition, this area was frequently used by private hire vehicles picking up customers and until recently was the location for a private hire booking office used by Boro Cars.
As a consequence of the hackney carriage ranks and other parking restrictions on Wilson Street there were no parking/waiting facilities on Wilson Street for other vehicles. However, in sections of Wilson Street that were not covered by a hackney carriage rank, the restrictions did allow for other vehicles to stop, drop off and pick up passengers.
In recent years, the arrangements for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles within Wilson Street had been the subject of much debate between representatives from the hackney carriage and private hire trade, Officers and the Police.
In April 2011, the Council approved the use of Taxi Marshals within Wilson Street for a three month trial period to organise taxi queues in an orderly manner, promote good conduct by the public and to ensure the smooth flow of traffic. The use of Taxi Marshals was seen as an integral part of the working of the hackney carriage and private hire arrangements within Wilson Street and the use of Taxi Marshals in this area had been supported by the hackney carriage trade in particular.
In May 2012, following discussions with the Quality Taxi Partnership (QTP), a recommendation was made by Officers to implement a three month trial of alternative arrangements for hackney carriage and private hire vehicles which had included the continued use of Taxi Marshals within Wilson Street. This recommendation had been approved by the Executive Member in June 2012.
The alternative arrangements were outlined in further detail within the report and attached as Appendix 1 of the report.
The trial was implemented on 23 July 2012 and had been the subject of monitoring by Officers and much discussion by the QTP.
At the QTP on 7 November 2012, issues from the trial period were debated in full by the hackney carriage, private hire trade, Officers and Police. It was acknowledged that both sides of the trade wanted very different outcomes, however, it was also accepted that there would have to be a compromise. At the conclusion of the meeting Officers advised that a recommendation would be made to the Executive Member to implement the trial on a permanent basis. It was also recommended that work be carried out to the build out area of the pavement at the corner of Albert Road and Wilson Street to allow for easier access for vehicles turning into Wilson Street, and in particular, those vehicles attempting to access the private hire pick up and drop off area. This work was completed in December 2012.
As part of the trial, there had been a temporary continuation of the hackney carriage ranks in Wilson Street across the entrance to Dundas Street (the entrance to the NCP car park) to create 1 continuous rank. Prior to the trial Officers had held a meeting with an agent acting on behalf of the owners of Dundas House that sought approval for the proposal. The agent confirmed that the car park was not currently in use during the hours of the ranks operation and permission was given for the Taxi Marshals to temporarily close off the entrance to Dundas Street with a temporary barrier between 12 midnight and 5am.
At the conclusion of the trial Officers held a further meeting with the agent acting on behalf of the owners of Dundas House to discuss the recommendation to implement the trial on a permanent basis. The agent confirmed that there would be no objections to the proposal providing that assurances could be given that, should circumstances change and access to the car park be required, the Taxi Marshals would maintain access to the car park. Officers had confirmed that this request would be facilitated.
The next steps should the recommendationbe approved would be for Officers to place statutory notices in the press and to consult with nearby businesses before any changes could be made to the hackney carriage ranks in Wilson Street.
The report outlined that there were two options available:
Option 1 (preferred option) - To approve the use of Taxi Marshals in Wilson Street permanently and give approval for Officers to begin the statutory procedure to implement permanent changes to the current arrangements for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles in Wilson Street.
Option 2 - To leave the current arrangements for hackney carriage and private hire vehicles in Wilson Street unaltered. However, this would not address the issues in Wilson Street in the long term and would contradict the earlier recommendation made by the Executive Member for Community Protection at the meeting on 8 March 2012.
That Option 1 of the recommendations be approved. Officers would then commence the statutory procedure to implement changes to the hackney carriage rank arrangements within Wilson Street. This would involve further consultation, in particular with businesses in the nearby vicinity and advertisement of the proposals via public notices in the local press.
The decision was supported by the following reason:
It is clear that despite much discussion between the hackney carriage and private hire trade, neither sections of the trade are in full agreement with the current recommendations above and officers have been unable to establish any common ground. However, Officers believe, along with the Police and Taxi Marshals, that the proposed arrangement is a reasonable compromise which has led to an improved situation in Wilson Street.