HALTON Borough Council is refusing to allow any more black cabs on their roads despite the population increasing by more than 30,000 since 1985.

Aspiring hackney carriage drivers in Halton are embroiled in a bitter long-standing row with the local authority over a rule that limits the number of cabs in the borough.

The row came to a head at Runcorn Town Hall on Wednesday night when an application to grant 15 Hackney Carriage licences was refused by the regulatory committee.

Many drivers operating in nearby areas such as Frodsham are desperate to work as Hackney cab drivers in Halton – but have been refused permission to do so on a number of occasions.

The authority say only 267 black cabs are allowed in Runcorn and Widnes.

But it is unclear on what policy the hackney carriage limit is based on – and why the 267 figure was agreed.

Mystery surrounds the source of the figure – which was the subject of a tense debate at the meeting.

The council say it is based on an 'unmet demand' survey from decades ago – although no record of this could be produced on Wednesday’s meeting.

The meeting saw taxi drivers argue fiercely that more black cabs were needed to meet the growing population of the borough, which has increased by more than 30,000 since 1985, when the last unmet demand survey was thought to have been carried out.

Drivers also argued that a limited number of wheelchair accessible vehicles in the borough had led to cases of disabled people being stranded.

There are between 19 and 21 taxis equipped to take wheelchair users in Halton – a problem which Sure Start have made licensing officers aware of, the regulatory committee heard.

On Wednesday, the council’s legal advisor John Tully said that while the Department for Transport advised carrying out a new unmet demand survey every three to five years, there was no legal requirement to do so.

Although no evidence of the historic survey was produced, he asked committee members to take its results to be true.

Licensing authorities have the power to restrict the number of hackney carriages if they are satisfied that there is no significant unmet demand for the services in their area.

Cab drivers are now hoping to take their appeal to the crown court.