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Taxi Zones in North Northamptonshire: Drive towards unification faces strong opposition

Image credit: Dynamo Motors

North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) are considering the removal of the current four hackney carriage zones to establish a single unified zone dispute strong opposition from the taxi trade.

This move, stemming from a consultation that began on 30 October 2023 and concluded on 21 January 2024, is aimed at simplifying the regulatory landscape post the April 2021 unitary authority reforms. The proposal, endorsed by the Licensing and Appeals Committee, seeks to modernise hackney carriage operations which have traditionally been segmented by local authority boundaries.

The proposed changes involve not just the consolidation of geographical zones but a thorough overhaul of hackney carriage byelaws. The scrutiny committee has advanced the report for a final decision at the executive meeting scheduled for early June, urging simultaneous preparations for a revised licensing test if the single zone scheme is approved.

Meetings with local taxi operators have highlighted a mixture of support and significant concern. Some see the unification as a potential reduction in administrative burdens and operational costs. Others, particularly from Corby and Wellingborough, worry about the economic viability under the new vehicle age requirements and the impact on service quality and urban congestion.

Concerns have particularly been voiced over the revised 'knowledge test' for drivers, which would now cover all 382 square miles of North Northamptonshire, rather than their previous localised zones.

The new knowledge test proposal has sparked intense debate. It would require drivers to familiarise themselves with the entire county, including key locations like train stations and town centres, and also utilise satnavs for navigation. Critics argue that this dilutes the traditional skills expected of a hackney carriage driver, known for their detailed local knowledge. “We do need to make sure that we set the test at the right level which effectively reflects what’s required in a modern test, the increased size of North Northants as an area and the key locations that people would need to know,” explained Iain Smith, assistant director of regulatory services at NNC.

Despite these challenges, NNC maintains that de-zoning would enable taxi businesses to operate across North Northamptonshire without needing multiple licenses, potentially broadening their market reach. This flexibility, however, requires all drivers to pass the same comprehensive county-wide knowledge test, regardless of their operational preferences.


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