DCAN 5: Taxi Offices
Issued by: Department of the Environment
The purpose of this Advice Note is to give general guidance to intending developers, their professional advisors and agents. It is designed to provide advice on the planning criteria to be applied when an application for this form of development is being considered. It should be stressed that the note is not a specific statement of Departmental policy but rather one of advice and guidance.
Each application or appeal is treated on its merits and the application of the guidance given to a particular case is always a matter calling for judgement.
Any legal views stated in this note have no statutory force and should not be relied upon as an authoritative interpretation of the law.
A list of other current notes in this series can be obtained from Divisional Planning Offices or from the Planning Service’s Headquarters.
- This note deals with the planning issues that arise concerning applications to establish taxi offices, however described, and sets out the criteria which the Department will take into account when determining such proposals.
- The operation of all taxis in Northern Ireland is governed by the requirements of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 and by regulations and bye-laws made thereunder. The Order empowers the Department to lay down standards for the licensing of drivers and their vehicles and, amongst other matters, to deignate taxi ranks.
- The taxi-cab trade in Northern Ireland is separately licensed as private or public hire. The private hire taxi is licensed to operate from registered offices or other premises and may only be indirectly booked by telephone or other prior arrangement. This form of taxi-cab is forbidden to ply for hire in public streets.
- The public hire taxi may ply for hire or reward on public streets. Such taxis may lawfully operate only from ranks designated by the Department or, when mobile, with a "For Hire" sign displayed. This service is not normally subject to planning legislation.
- It should be noted that a taxi office falls within Class 2 — office use class — of the Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 1973
- Regarding private hire taxi operations, of which there are two types, namely those based in taxi offices and those in taxi depots, the Department is concerned primarily with the former. This is because taxi-cabs are generally owned by the drivers and not by the owners of the taxi office. Thus, taxi depots, where the cabs are stored on the firm’s premises, are a very rare form of development.
- The private hire taxi service, comprising an office used to relay requests for taxis to taxi drivers, is not used as a depot, although sometimes the driver may call at the office. Consequently, the Department is mainly concerned with the functions of the office, whose staff are employed to take and relay messages and for any other administrative purposes.
- In considering applications for such offices the Department will consider their proper location, their effect on adjoining property including the effect of noise and disturbance, and also car parking requirements.
- Proposals for taxi offices in wholly residential areas are unlikely to be favourably considered by the Department. This is primarily because of the noise and disturbance which is likely to be incurred by taxi-cabs arriving late at night to collect customers who have called at the offices. It should be noted that taxi services tend to have their peak hours in the evening, from approximately 6.30 pm to 2.00 am. There may be some minor ‘peaks’ during the day, due perhaps to the arrival of a passenger ferry in a local port or, m the evening, due to visitors at a local hospital. However, normally, the busiest hours for taxi services are outside the peak hours for traffic.
- Within an area which is predominantly residential but perhaps with some commercial land uses, the Department will carefully consider the effect of the proposed development on adjoining residential properties.
- The fringe of the central area of a town, within an area of mixed land uses but primarily of a commercial nature, can be an ideal location for a taxi office. A secondary shopping area within a town centre may also be a suitable location. However, a prime shopping area will generally not be regarded as acceptable because of the loss of a potential retail outlet.
- Car parking facilities for taxi offices operating a radio-controlled type of service should be to the standard for small offices. Currently the standard for staff is 1 car space per 20 square metres, and for operational parking,ie, space required for cars and other vehicles necessarily involved in the operation of the business, a standard
of 1 private vehicle space per 930 square metres and 1 commercial vehicle space per 2,300 square metres. However, most taxi firms operate on a 24 hour basis, and it is likely that during that period some drivers will call at the office either to collect a customer or merely to wait. The Department therefore considers that this parking standard should only be regarded as a minimum requirement and, depending upon the scale and character of the proposed business, may require additional parking facilities to be provided.
- Regarding taxi depots, where the taxi-cabs are stored on the premises, the standard should be the same as for small offices plus one car space for each cab to be stored.
- Radio masts are often associated with taxi offices. These are not permitted development under the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 1973, and require a separate planning application. In some instances a temporary planning permission of one year only may be granted for a taxi office in order to gauge the effects of possible interference on local radio and television transmission from any associated radio mast.