Greater freedom for wheelchair taxi users thanks to council policy change

The number of wheelchair accessible taxis in Amber Valley looks set to increase after a council agreed to lift restrictions for cabbies - freeing up access to key services and hospitality to many more people.

During a review of its Taxi Licensing Policy, Amber Valley Borough Council recently discussed equality of access to taxis, through the greater provision of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVS).

The local authority has agreed changes designed to make the supply of WAVs more attractive to taxi owners and firms - with ambitions to add to the 20 vehicles currently available in the borough.

Modifications to the policy, which is kept under regular review, are designed to widen the pool of vehicles that are available for use as WAVs by increasing the length of time that they can remain licensed, increase the allowed mileage, and permit advertising to be displayed on the vehicle.

The changes have been welcomed by Siobhan Fennell, who founded Accessible Belper in 2015 to broaden the understanding of those with disabling conditions, and was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2019 for services to transport accessibility inclusion and disability awareness.

Siobhan, who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), is quadroplegic and has used a wheelchair for 20 years, said: "This is absolutely incredible. We are in such a difficult position and we have become so isolated and there is no real means of reliable transport for us.

"We are very much dictated to by what transport is available, and at times there is nothing available at all, and we have to cancel appointments or meetings, so any improvements will be brilliant."

Councillor Tony Harper, Cabinet portfolio holder for Regeneration and Community Safety, said: "Although these are relatively small changes to our policy, they are designed to make provision of a WAV more attractive to the trade and encourage an increase in overall provision across Amber Valley.

"Provision of WAVs is a challenging subject to address in an area with a geography and demand for taxis like ours, as generating enough business demand to justify initial purchase costs of WAVs is significant.

"The additional level of upfront investment required from the trade if they wish to purchase a WAV doesn’t always make this a feasible option."

Amber Valley currently has 20 WAVs on its public register and is aiming to increase this number further.

Although the council is responsible for the licensing of taxis, it doesn’t own the vehicles, so working with the trade is an important element of achieving any sustainable change.

Councillor Harper added: "At the annual meeting of the Licensing Board in April 2021 an appetite was expressed by members to increase the number of WAV’s serving the borough as at that time only 14 vehicles were registered. We now have 20 and want that number to continue to rise."

"The taxi industry has been adversely impacted by the Covid pandemic alongside trades such as hospitality and air travel which the taxi industry serves."

"This uncertainty has made investment in more expensive WAVs difficult for the trade, so we have loosened some of our vehicle requirements to make such a decision more attractive. Ultimately, we would all like to see a fleet of vehicles that are equally accessible for wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users alike, improving access to key services and hospitality for all."

Private hire companies wishing to find out more about the WAV policy changes should call the Licensing team on 01773 570222.

Need further help or information?

Contact the team directly on 01773 570222 or email