Published: 11:33, 21 February 2020
| Updated: 08:50, 23 February 2020
Three rival taxi firms are working together to object new proposed rules which they say could "destroy" their business.
Thanet Private Hire Association, made up of United Cars, Thanet Taxis and Central Cars, are worried new rules proposed by Thanet District Council could force a quarter of their drivers out of a job.
A new draft of the council's Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy would place new restrictions on the age of vehicles which can operate as taxis in the area.
Rupert Lambert, from Central Cars, said the proposed changes have sent shockwaves through the drivers.
He said: "I have been in the taxi business for over 40 years and have never seen such genuine concern and worry between the drivers.
"Drivers would find it impossible to replace their cars with new ones as often as the council are asking, we could easily lose a quarter or more of our cars.
"It would have a massive effect on services, not only for our local regular customers but visitors to Thanet too."
Under the new proposed rules, some drivers would only have three years to replace their vehicles with new or like-new models.
Andrew Doody, from Thanet Taxis, said people rely on their services so much that the local economy would suffer.
He said: "The cabs in Thanet have always been almost public transport.
"Fares are low because we have kept them low, it's a deprived area and people rely on all of us to get around."
On the Hackney Taxi Fare Tables, Thanet's average fare of £5.40 was listed as 290th out of 361 councils across the country.
The fare is one of the cheapest in Kent, but the taxi firms say to keep business afloat they would have to significantly increase prices.
Cllr Alan Currie, of Cliftonville West Ward, said: "I do believe that the introduction of age limitations to hire vehicles is a necessary requirement in the business, however I am concerned that an area like Thanet is a low income area unlike Canterbury or Ashford for example.
"The draft policy does seem to expect drivers to upgrade to a new or nearly new car within a three year time frame and if this is the case then I would imagine many drivers, not just in Thanet, would find this very difficult financially."
The councillor added: "I would like to see at least a longer time frame allowed for drivers to implement these changes, especially with slightly older vehicles in very good condition and hopefully the policy can be looked at and amended to satisfy all concerns."
The companies collectively have around 400 licensed private hire drivers serving the area, and they claim to deliver an average of 35,000 jobs a week.
Thanet District Council said they are working alongside licence holders and their comments will be taken into consideration before the policy is finalised.
A spokesman from the council said: "We are currently consulting with license holders, both minicabs and taxis to understand their views on our proposed licensing policy.
"As a local authority we have a duty to try and improve the quality of life in Thanet for all our residents. The introduction of a maximum vehicle age policy is something we want to consider.
"This is to ensure that passengers are travelling in even safer, more comfortable vehicles and that we start to lay the foundations for helping the UK achieve lower carbon emissions.
"The proposal is that in the future we would not normally accept diesel cars that are more than five years old for licensing. There would be some flexibility around this and the maximum age for a diesel vehicle to be licenced would be seven years."