Taxi's green plans meet a stop sign in St Austell
A ST AUSTELL company with the first electric taxi in Cornwall fears the brakes could be applied to their plans to put the eco-vehicle on the town's ranks.
C&C Cars has invested £23,000 in the green vehicle, which has been topped up with a £5,000 government grant.
Proprietor Michelle Williams and her partner Mark have ambitious plans to purchase two more electric cars.
But they fear after contacting Cornwall Council that the firm will be refused a Hackney carriage licence, a requirement to put the cars on the town's taxi ranks.
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Mr Williams said the merger of the taxi zones throughout the former Restormel Borough has seen licensed Hackney carriages snapped up by neighbouring Newquay drivers.
This has resulted in a large proportion of Hackney carriage taxis operating in the coastal resort, leaving St Austell's taxi ranks vacant and no Hackney service in rural areas, said Mr Williams.
Previously Fowey would have had its own zone, as would Lostwithiel, Newquay, St Austell town centre and a St Austell rural taxi zone.
These five zones have since been amalgamated into one.
But the owners of C&C Cars believe there is unmet demand and don't understand why – following an informal approach to the council – they have been left feeling that it is not keen on their green scheme.
Mr Williams, 42, said that this goes against the council's ambition to make St Austell the green capital of the county and a joint approach to harness £37 million of government grants to install electric vehicle charging points.
London mayor Boris Johnson has said he wants the capital to have a zero-emission taxi fleet by 2020 and C&C Cars hopes Cornwall Council will follow.
Miss Williams, also 42, explained they could continue using the car for private hire but can't wait on the ranks or be hailed in the street.
"There used to be 40 Hackney carriage taxis, now there are 24 but the population has risen, surely simple maths says there aren't enough," she said, and added that it is an issue of public safety.
"The taxi ranks should have taxis sat on them. People need to get home and should not be left without a way of getting home.
"To say people will always be able to ring for a private hire car is just not realistic."
Miss Williams admits they were sold on the idea of electric taxis because of their environmental views and to keep ahead of the game.
"We hope the council will support a local business that wants to support and encourage green technology while investing in public safety."
Their application to Cornwall Council for a Hackney carriage vehicle licence was submitted last week.
A Cornwall Council spokesman said the decision would be made by its miscellaneous licensing committee within the next two months.
The committee will take into account the findings of an independent survey carried out in 2011, which include responses from the taxi industry, police, town and parish council and the public.
She added: "The study concluded that there was no evidence of significant unmet demand for Hackney carriages in Cornwall Council's Restormel Taxi Zone and so the level of provision has not been changed."