Members received a verbal report from the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) giving an update on officer inquiries into making changes to the existing stands for hackney carriages.
Members were reminded that at the Licensing Committee meeting held on 27th January 2020 Members had received a report regarding the location of the current hackney carriage stands in Redditch.
Members had resolved to ask officers to engage with stakeholders to explore the following potential changes: -
· The creation of a hackney carriage stand at Redditch railway station
· The creation of a hackney carriage stand at the Alexandra Hospital
· Changes to the existing hackney carriage stand at Unicorn Hill
· The creation of a new hackney carriage stand on Bates Hill
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing) explained that with as the station and the hospital were located on private land, the consent and co-operation of the land owners would be required in order to create a hackney carriage stand. To that end, the Senior Practitioner (Licensing) had contacted both the NHS trust (Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust) and West Midlands Trains.
To date there had been no response from the NHS trust, although other issues would be taking priority due to the pandemic. There had been a response from West Midlands Trains in March 2020 stating that they would be willing to discuss the issue further with a view to establishing an appropriate location.
With regard to Unicorn Hill and Bates Hill, the Senior Practitioner (Licensing) had been able to arrange a site visit involving interested parties and that visit took place on 1st October 2020. Those present included the relevant officer from County Highways, Kieron Hemstock, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Licensing Committee and one of the County Councillors for the division, namely Councillor Andy Fry (who it was noted is also a member of the Licensing Committee).
The site meeting was useful in considering possible options. Feedback from County Highways was given that subject to any changes having the support of the County Councillors for the division, there was quite a lot of flexibility in what could be achieved. To progress matters the Borough Council would have to give a more detailed indication of what proposals it would wish to see implemented in terms of hackney carriage stand provision, and the Traffic Regulation Orders could be updated to reflect those changes.
To inform any proposals, officers advised that the next stage would be further engagement to seek the views of those parties that would be affected by any changes. This group would include the businesses located on Unicorn Hill, the town centre businesses more broadly and the taxi trade.
In terms of the detail of any changes, one option would be to retain a small number of spaces at the Hewell Road end of Unicorn Hill for use as a hackney carriage stand 24 hours a day, with the remainder of the existing rank being converted to short term parking during the day and reverting back to being a hackney carriage stand during the evening. This arrangement would also involve the current short term parking bays on Bates Hill being converted to a hackney carriage stand operating 24hours a day, and acting as a feeder rank for the stand on Unicorn Hill.
It was noted that there were some issues with this proposal in that there would be no clear line of site between Bates Hill and any retained hackney carriage stand at the bottom of Unicorn Hill.
At the site visit another option suggested was to switch the hackney carriage stand on Unicorn Hill to where the short term parking is located currently on Bates Hill, and change the existing hackney carriage stand area on Unicorn Hill into short term parking bays.
Members were reminded that the above options were simply ideas at this stage and would be subject to the outcome of further stake holder consultation and formal consultation which would have to take place before any new hackney carriage stand orders could be made.
It having been established in principle that changes on Unicorn Hill/Bates Hill were possible, the Senior Practitioner (Licensing) advised that the next step would be to carry out further stake holder engagement, and the outcome of that consultation would be reported back to the Licensing Committee at a future meeting. Officers would also follow up the previous contact with the NHS trust and West Midlands Trains.
In commenting on the officer update, Members supported the proposals for the station and the Alexandra Hospital. Opposing views were expressed regarding the possible use of Bates Hill as a hackney carriage stand, in place of Unicorn Hill. Councillor Fry raised issues around highway safety and was concerned that the switch of the hackney carriage stand to Bates Hill would be more dangerous for pedestrians than the current arrangement. In his capacity as County Councillor he indicated that such a change would not have his support. He also questioned the need for additional short term parking as historically spaces had been available to serve Unicorn Hill.
Councillor Chalk indicated his support for allowing short term parking on Unicorn Hill for the benefit of businesses and their customers and commented that in principle the idea of a feeder rank would be feasible in the same way as the feeder rank operates for the bus station.
There was further discussion as to which direction would work best for any hackney carriage stand on Bates Hill, and whether the vehicles should move uphill to collect fares, or downhill, or whether either option could be workable.
The contents of the verbal update be noted
[ Note: Part way throught this item Councillor Julina Grubb had to leave the meeting and gave his apoloiges.]