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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham pursues climate ambition and improved accessibility for taxis

Cheltenham Borough Council pledged today (September 21) to bring its wheelchair accessible vehicle policy for taxis in line with its 2030 climate ambition.

The council has announced that it will be removing the implementation date of December 31 2021 of its wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) policy for taxis. It has committed to quickly reviewing and implementing an updated WAV policy to bring it into line with its 2030 climate ambition, aiming for Cheltenham taxis to be both wheelchair accessible and carbon zero.

As part of the council's commitment, the licensing team invited the London Electric Vehicle Company to Cheltenham to demonstrate alternative, greener and wheelchair accessible taxi vehicles for Cheltenham licensed taxi drivers to test drive.

Cllr Martin Horwood, member for customer and regulatory services, said: "My ambition is to develop a policy where we have a 100 per cent zero carbon and wheelchair accessible taxis. The climate emergency motion passed by council in 2019 commits to Cheltenham being zero carbon by 2030 and accessibility remains a priority for the council.

"The revised policy will be developed through extensive engagement with representatives of the licensed trade and disability groups, with advice from our climate change team.

"We need a comprehensive plan covering charging infrastructure implementation, affordability and finance for drivers, likely government disability legislation and air quality considerations.

"In the meantime, I also want to deliver an immediate and significant increase in the availability of taxis for wheelchair users in Cheltenham. To make this happen, we are in discussions with an app developer to make it much easier for wheelchair users in Cheltenham to hail one of the 70 wheelchair accessible hackney cabs we already have.''

The council recognises the investment made by drivers who have already converted to wheelchair accessible vehicles, and will ensure that the further move to zero carbon will be phased in for those with existing wheelchair-accessible vehicles. New applicants will still be required to license a WAV taxi, so the number of WAVs will continue to increase.

Ann Lightfoot, chair of the Cheltenham Accessibility Forum, said: "We welcome the council's policy, which strives for accessibility for everyone and the use of carbon neutral vehicles. The forum is delighted to be involved in working towards equality of access for all and believes that cooperative working benefits all parties.''

Andrew Pyrka, Cheltenham Taxi Association spokesperson, said: "We are delighted that Cheltenham Borough Council has decided to lift the deadline on the WAV policy, in light of the difficult times drivers have had over the last 18 months. We look forward to working with the council on a policy that not only serves the needs of the disabled, but also contributes to protecting the environment.''

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