Councillor Martin Horwood, Councillor Max Wilkinson and a member of Cheltenham accessibility forum sitting in an electric taxi at a demonstration event
Council commits to reviewing its wheelchair accessible vehicle policy in line with meeting its climate zero carbon ambition by 2030. Dialogue advances with app developer to book accessible vehicles
Today (Tuesday, 21 September) the council has announced that the implementation date of 31 December 2021 of its wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) policy for taxis will be removed and has committed to quickly reviewing and implementing an updated WAV policy to bring this 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% 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 WAV’s 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 spokesperson for Cheltenham Taxi Association added: ‘’We are delighted that Cheltenham Borough Council have 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.’’