A CALL to ‘declutter’ Kendal town centre by removing taxis from the streets has been made by members of Kendal Town Council.

Councillors say the number of cabs parking in Stricklandgate gives a bad first impression of the town.

But taxi drivers have hit back, with one saying that with just three official spaces on Highgate, doing the job in Kendal is ‘worse than a nightmare’.

The official taxi rank on Highgate is outside Barclays, which has space for three vehicles.

But South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) allows cabs to park outside Farrers coffee shop, on Stricklandgate, as an ‘unofficial rank’ outside loading times.

Coun Clare Feeney-Johnson has complained about the number of taxis on Stricklandgate, and that some drivers stand outside their cabs smoking, which she said did not give a good impression of the town.

She said: “It takes over the town centre and makes it feel like a busy road rather than a pedestrianised area. “I don’t want to affect the business of taxi drivers and people who rely on them but it’s all about looking at the future.

“A viable town centre needs to be attractive – if it’s blocked up with taxis and delivery wagons you take away some of its attractiveness.”

The Mayor of Kendal, Coun Sylvia Emmott, said her concern was for the safety of pedestrians: “I’ve seen taxis queueing by the Birdcage and they shouldn’t park there, although I appreciate they’ve got to make a living.

“The conclusion we’ve come to is we probably need another taxi rank, but that’s a very long process. Personally I would like to see the area from the town hall to the library completely pedestrianised because it makes a much nicer shopping experience.”

The town council has written to SLDC and Cumbria County Council about a strategy for minimising the volume of taxis and highlighting pedestrian areas.

One suggestion is reconfiguring an area of the bus station on Blackhall Road to accommodate more taxis.

But K Cars driver Kevin Dixon said: “This is the middle of what should be a thriving town centre, and where else would you find a town of 30,000 with so few spaces – it’s worse than a nightmare.”

Ikram Ullah, another K Cars driver, said: “We’re fighting for our livelihood and we’re constantly being hounded and given tickets.

“It’s not fair because we’re here for members of the public who need us.” He added that the bus station was not central enough for a main taxi rank and Highgate was ‘easier for people to see where we are’.

Jeremy Saunders, who runs Jez’s Taxis, said: “We have to keep moving constantly because of traffic wardens but then we waste fuel driving around town.”

Other taxi ranks in Kendal are at the bus station (which has space for two cabs), outside Sphere bar on Stramongate and at Market Place, which cannot be used on Wednesday and Saturday because of the outdoor market.

Changing taxi rank locations requires a Traffic Regulation Order, which take around two years to implement.

SLDC’s Public Protection Manager Phil Greenup said it had not received any complaints about the number of taxis in the town centre, but could look at the situation as part of the ‘vision’ for Kendal.