Contracts cancelled in taxi building row

Karl Battersby has been appointed as director of economy and regeneration at Wigan Council.
Karl Battersby has been appointed as director of economy and regeneration at Wigan Council.

Wigan Council is terminating all of its contracts with a taxi firm at the centre of a row over the illegal use of a town centre building.

The town hall has brought to an end its arrangements for Crusader Cabs to provide vehicles taking young people in the borough to school.

The council has taken the drastic step of cutting ties with the private hire firm in the wake of its continuing to defy the courts and use the building opposite Wallgate train station.

Crusader Cabs boss Hossein Ghorbani had enforcement and stop notices served on him last year over the company occupying the former financial services centre.

He was successfully prosecuted at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court for failing to obey the stop notice and appeals to the Crown Court to overturn both the guilty verdict and the sentence failed.

The council has already found other firms to carry out some of the home-to-school work and is gradually ending all its associations with Crusader Cabs as the company continues to blatantly flount the law.

Parents of youngsters whose needs mean they rely on taxis to get to school each day are also being assured they will not face any inconvenience over the council’s decision.

Karl Battersby, director of economy and environment, said: “This whole issue is a waste of valuable public resources.

“I have urged Mr Ghorbani to cease the use of the premise as a taxi booking office with immediate effect.

“So far we have followed the usual process when we have a breach of planning control but as this has not resolved the matter we’re now stopping all dealings with the company.

“We will be contacting affected parents and families individually and ensuring any disruption is kept to a minimum.

“The council is committed to ensuring that all hackney carriages, private hire vehicles, operators and drivers are properly licensed and have been through the correct regulation procedures.

“The overwhelming majority of our private hire vehicles provide excellent service and it is unfair to the rest of the trade when an operator does not follow the regime.

“We will continue to pursue further action.”

Ghorbani, from Aspull, has already been ordered to pay a £1,000 fine and £1,800 in costs over the legal proceedings to cease the use of the building, for which Crusader does not have the relevant planning permission.

The Wallgate building is owned by Network Rail which has passed the matter on to its legal team for further action to be taken over suspected breaches of the tenancy agreement.

Crusader’s ongoing use of the building, particularly during busy Friday nights and weekends in the town centre, has outraged other businesses and drivers in the industry who play by the rules.

Black cab drivers’ representatives have been particularly outspoken in demanding Crusader’s removal from the building.