STRETCH ‘party’ limousines could be licensed and checked as taxis under a new shake-up of cab regulations in Blackburn with Darwen.

Councillors are looking at bringing ‘novelty vehicles’ into the system after agreeing a compromise on new bodywork checks with the drivers.

The borough’s licensing committee discussed proposed new maintenance rules for hackney carriages in Blackburn with Darwen.

They are based on the current London scheme and proposals being considered by the government to introduce national standards.

Local drivers feared the new bodywork regulations would be stricter than the current ones, requiring very small dents and scratches to be repaired, often leading to whole new panels.

The committee decided to introduce a six-month trial for the new scheme and allow more flexibility on the issue of minor bodywork damage.

They plan to have a comprehensive scheme, possibly including novelty vehicles and ‘stretch-limo’ regulations, which is currently a grey area nationally, in place before any government moves.

Licensing committee chairman John Wright said: “Everybody is unhappy at the current bodywork regulations which are difficult to administer.

“We had a look at the London scheme and the representations from the trade and came up with a more flexible one.

“We have come to a common sense compromise.

“We are also looking in the longer term to regulate limousines and other novelty vehicles in the light of government proposals.

“We want to be ahead of the game when any national system is introduced.”

Neil Turner of Blackburn’s Coach House Limousines said he was happy to see more regulation of his and other ‘novelty’ vehicles.

Holder of a full taxi licence with relevant checks, he said: “There are people out there that use these novelty vehicles that should be licensed but aren’t.”

Blackburn Taxi Association vice-chairman Mohammed Mangera said: “We are happy with what was agreed with the committee.It is a more flexible system.”