New rules for taxis in North Somerset have been watered down after drivers warned they would force people into debt.

A plan to introduce a “terminal limit” meaning a car could no longer be used as a taxi once it was ten years old was dropped by North Somerset Council’s licensing committee, along with a plan to ban cars that had been an insurance write off for any reason from being taxis. But plans to require cars to be newer when first plated as a taxi will still be introduced, along with a ban on cars that were an insurance  write-off for “structural” reasons from being used as taxis.

When the draft plan was originally published taxi drivers warned it could kill their business in a consultation on the plans. One driver said: “This draft will cause either extreme financial hardship or even force closure of our company and others, due to unrealistic policies, resulting in numerous people becoming unemployed.”

The proposal to stop cars which had been the subject of either a category N or category S insurance write off from being used as taxis and private hire vehicles had caused particular alarm. The driver warned that a category N write off could be something minor such as a small dent and said: “People cannot afford to replace their vehicle for something minor like this, you would be forcing people out of work and into debt.”

In a meeting of North Somerset Council’s licensing committee on October 31, councillors agreed that the ban on vehicles which had been category N write-offs went too far, as these could often cover minor issues which insurance companies considered too expensive to fix. Councillor Peter Burden said an insurance company had refused to even look at a family member’s Spitfire MX after it got a scratch on the wing.

But the new rules will still ban cars which have been a category S write-off — one due to structural damage — from being used as taxis.

Plans to require cars to be less than five years old when they are first plated as a taxi will also remain. Currently a car can be plated as a taxi as long as it is less than eight years old. Councillor Ian Parker said he thought reducing the age limit was a “mistake.”

New taxis will also have to meet the Euro 6 emissions standards.

The plans for a ten year “terminal limit,” also proposed in the draft policy, would have brought North Somerset Council into line with neighbouring councils such as Bristol and South Gloucestershire. But committee chair Stuart Davies said this was a policy that was more relevant to cities. Councillors agreed that cars will still be able to be used as a taxi for as long as they continue to pass six-monthly inspections, with no age limit.

The new policy will need to go for a vote before a full meeting of North Somerset Council before it comes into effect.