STAFFORD taxi drivers are to meet the town’s MP Jeremy Lefroy and borough councillors this afternoon, Thursday, to discuss their fears over proposals to move the most popular late-night taxi rank in the town centre.
The meeting, hosted by the Casa nightspot, follows a token hour-long strike by members of the Stafford Taxi Association late on Saturday night to register their concern about the effect on trade if the move goes ahead.
The borough council has proposed moving the taxi rank from its current location next to Casa, off Bridge Street, to a new spot on South Walls, near the Royal Bank of Scotland, to make more room for construction work on the town’s new cinema complex.
Meanwhile the police have suggested closing Bridge Street to traffic late at night on the busiest evenings for Stafford’s nightclubs, in the interests of safety.
But the taxi drivers say both moves would mean revellers wandering round the town centre in the small hours in search of a taxi home, leading to more anti-social behaviour. The South Walls location is also too small for the number of taxis needed in town late at night, they say, while closing of Bridge Street would mean longer and costlier journeys for their customers.
Taxi association chairman Colin Jones said: “These plans are putting drivers’ livelihoods at stake, because they will make it more difficult to find a taxi and drive custom out of the town centre.
“People wanting a night out will head to Wolverhampton or Birmingham if we don’t make Stafford a welcoming and enjoyable place to go out.”
Chief Inspector Jane Hewett, commander of Stafford Borough Local Policing Team (LPT), said: "We are working together with our colleagues at Stafford Borough Council to make the town safer and help reduce late night crime and anti-social behaviour, specifically Tuesdays and at the weekends.
"One idea being explored is the possibility of bollards late at night in Bridge Street, from the corner of the Bank of Scotland on Mill Bank down to the Grapes, on the corner of Newport Road, which can be raised manually as and when required.
"This is to help make the area safer for the volume of people in Bridge Street late at night. On occasions we are already blocking Bridge Street off with a police vehicle to ensure the safety of pedestrians within that area at that time of night. "
If bollards were to be implemented this would help to make the area safer for pedestrians and ensure the road was not being used - but this idea is simply in the exploration stage.
"We want people to have a safe and enjoyable time when they visit Stafford late at night but we also have a responsibility to keep anti-social behaviour, noise nuisance and potential disorder to a minimum."