Local (parish and town) councils should be given a new legal right to be consulted on local transport licences, according to a national committee charged with promoting new sustainability powers at grassroots level.
The move is backed by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and would see local councils have more say over licensing applications from vehicle operators such as local taxi firms.
Wingham Parish Council in Kent has proposed the idea using the Sustainable Communities Act (SCA), a bottom-up process that allows local people to drive central government action to help their local communities. The proposal is supported by NALC's SCA Board – a committee run by NALC made up of councillors and a Local Works representative, which is charged with looking at proposals turned down by the government and deciding whether they should be reconsidered.
At a meeting of the Selector Panel last week they agreed to re-submit the proposal to the Department for Transport, backing calls for England's 9000 parishes to have a legal right to be consulted by transport authorities when applications are made to them for example from local taxi firms.
Wingham Parish Council is arguing that the current means of notifying the public about licensing applications through a small advert placed in the corner of a local newspaper is wholly unsatisfactory and is now an anachronism, particularly given the substantial decline in the circulation and readership of local papers.
Licensing authorities must improve awareness of transport operator applications, the granting of which can impact greatly both on the daily lives of residents and the local environment. In turn residents alerted by communications channels such as parish notice boards, websites, magazine and newsletters and could then express their views based on first-hand local knowledge through their parish councils.
Parish councils are well placed to assess the extent to which any harm may be caused by a new operator in their area and as a statutory consultee they would be able to bring important local information to the attention of the licensing authority.
Councillor Derek Liddell, Chairman of NALC's SCA Board said, "The Board unanimously agreed that Wingham Parish Council re-submit its proposal to the Government on making parish councils statutory consultees for vehicle operator licenses. There is significant evidence that a lack of local consultation during applications for vehicle operator licenses such as taxis is leading to licenses being granted to the wrong organisations for the wrong reasons and which can be costly and time consuming for all concerned. So we again call on the Government to formally consult after the General Election on making local councils statutory consultees in all vehicle operator licensing applications and renewals."