A CHAUFFEUR company which faced being driven off the road by council rules has won the right to drive in style.

Prestige Chauffeurs near Ramsbottom were warned by major local companies that they would go elsewhere if the firm was forced to have big legal signs plastered on its car doors.

But after appealing to the local authority, Prestige has been granted an exemption from the laws which apply to all of the hundreds of private hire cars in the borough.

Prestige Chauffeurs Ltd, based at Bolton Street, Ramsbottom, have been licensed with the council since December 1996 and operate three vehicles.

The firm mainly carries out contract work for firms within the Bury and Bolton area and have a liveried driver in the uniform of the company including chauffeur-style cap.

All private hire vehicles are required to display big signs on the car doors which include warnings that passengers are not covered by insurance unless the car is pre-booked.

The council brought these conditions in to persuade people not to get in a private hire vehicle unless they had phoned the booking office. Only taxis, or "black cabs", can be flagged down in the street. Councillors at last Thursday's (July 1) meeting of the licensing panel agreed to grant an exemption to Prestige, although an internal ID disc is to be agreed with the company.

The company was supported in its application by the National Private Hire Association which is based in Bury.

They said the big door logos required by the council would detract from the sort of executive service required by clients of the company.

Supporting letters were sent to the council from several local firms including Adams Manchester, part of confectionery division of Warner Lambert, and Fort James in Horwich. Greenmount company Greenwood and Coope Ltd also added their support.

Mr Christopher Hargreaves, managing director of Prestige, said he was pleased with the council's decision.

"When we first heard the notices were to be plastered on the side of the cars we were very concerned, it was bad enough with the plates. This notice did not gel with our image: it would push us down to a taxi level which we do not consider we are."

Mr Hargreaves said his staff had been verbally abused by other private hire firms who have not been exempted, but said: "We are not in competition with the normal taxis, we only target a certain market."

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