A TAXI firm is taking Hart Council to court over its refusal to license the use of older vehicles.

Claremont Taxis is disputing a rule which states licences will only be issued to vehicles which are less than five years old and in good condition, designed to bring the district in line with government regulations.

The measures, first reported in the News in February 2001, are being brought in by Hart to increase the safety of cabbies and their passengers.

Hart’s licensing enforce-ment officer David King has outlined the policy in a letter to taxi firms.

He states the ruling will be phased in so operators who have cars in their fleet more than five years old are given enough time to change their vehicles.

The majority of taxi companies have welcomed the move and are willing to co-operate with the council.

A spokesman for the Hart Operators, Proprietors and Drivers Association (HOPDA) said the group was prepared to draw a line under past disagreements with Hart and adopt the new licensing law in the interests of public safety and to raise the standards of local firms.

This viewpoint was backed during a meeting between HOPDA and council representatives at Fleet’s Harlington Centre in October.

But Claremont Taxis, of Fleet, is opposing the law and has a hearing at Aldershot Magistrates’ Court on March 12 to appeal against Hart’s refusal to license its older vehicles.

HOPDA fears a victory for the firm will open the floodgates to similar claims and damage the reputation of other operators.

Claremont Taxis and Hart Council declined to comment on the case.