NEW taxis which should improve accessibility for people in wheelchairs have been approved for Northwich and Winsford.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s licensing committee agreed to a request for rear-loading vehicles to be added to its approved hackney carriage list for the Vale Royal zone.

Keith Roberts, a driver with Frodsham and District Taxis, told the committee that drivers needed extra help to support passengers with mobility issues.

He said: “There is a growing ageing population. Many of them are not able to get out of the side [of taxis].”

“We have had consultation with drivers and they have all agreed they are willing to leave a 3m gap [behind their taxi].”

CWAC officers told the committee that the ability to get passengers off the kerb could be an issue, and that they might want to consider restricting the number of rear-loading vehicles allowed.

But councillors on both sides of the political divide supported the scheme, which had previously been recommended last November by the Corporate Disability Access Forum – a group of 15 local disability organisations.

Cllr Brian Crowe, Conservative member for Saughall and Mollington, said: “I have no concerns at all. There is no justifiable reason at all that a condition should be put on for regulating the numbers of these cars.

“I think this is a win-win situation. Having looked at the vehicle, I was well impressed.”

Cllr Alex Black, Labour member for Hoole, added: “As an able-bodied person, I find getting into hackney carriages by the side door is not the most comfortable experience.”

The committee unanimously passed the motion, on the grounds that rear-loading taxi drivers use a red warning triangle and wear a high-visibility vest when helping passengers in and out of the vehicle.