A special Hart Council committee refused the permits for Claremont Taxis after reading the report of licensing enforcement officer David King.

Mr King revealed that one of Claremont’s cars — a K-registration Nissan Serena GX estate — was imported from Japan by FMS Mark Ford of Portslade in Sussex.

It was then sold to HTCC of nearby Shoreham because FMS Mark Ford failed to get a Hackney Carriage Licence for it from Brighton and Hove Council.

The council refused to grant a licence for the car on the grounds of the type of car, its age and the fact that it had no service history.

HTCC sold the car to Dr Nigel Emberson, owner of Claremont Taxis, on February 6, 2002.

The car was licensed as a Hackney Carriage on February 14, 2002, as a temporary taxi to help Dr Emberson with his vehicle problem at the time.

Mr King said the council should now refuse to re-licence the car as it is 11 years old and is not a purpose-built Hackney Carraige.

“The vehicle has no service history and is imported,” states his report.

“The mileage and condition of the vehicle cannot be confirmed. Mileometers of vehicles can be and are rewound so that they appear to have done less mileage than they actually have.

“Vehicles are involved in serious accidents and are subsequently written off by insurance companies, but then reappear on the road after extensive repairs.

“Public safety is paramount, in my opinion, to the granting of licences by local authorities, together with the confidence of the public that they are getting into a safe and reliable taxi.”

Mr King said that another of Mr Emberson’s cars — an N-registration Ford Mondeo, was involved in a serious accident on September 25, 2000, and was deemed beyond economical repair by insurers.

The car was owned by East Midlands Electricity (Powergen) and its recorded mileage on September 18, 2000, was 115,051.

Mr Emberson bought the car on February 9, 2001, and registered it as a Hackney Carriage four days later.

But when it was re-registered on February 1, 2002, the recorded mileage was 120,416 — just 5,000 more than on September 18, 2000, after more than a year as a taxi.

The recorded mileage on February 5, 2003, was 146,918 — 26,000 within a year.

The car has three defects recorded on the inspection report — a steering wheel core loose, a front grill loose and bumpers damaged.

Mr King concluded that in view of the history and condition of the vehicle, he did not think it was suitable for use as a Hackney Carriage having regard to its age, Hart District Council’s policy and its condition with regard to public safety and confidence.

Mr King said Dr Emberson bought an L-registration Vauxhall Cavalier on February 2, 2000.

The previous owner sold the car to him on the assumption that it would only be licensed as a Hackney Carriage for a year as a temporary measure to help with vehicle problems and would not be licensed after 2001 due to Hart’s age policy.

The car was subsequently licensed as a Hackney Carraige in 2001 and 2002.

“The vehicle is not in an excellent condition,” states Mr King’s report.

“There is damage to the off-side door seal and rust spots around the windscreen.”

The recorded mileage on February 3, 2002, was 320,110 and the car will be ten years old in September.

Mr King said a fourth car owned by Dr Emberson — a P-registration Ford Mondeo with a recorded mileage of 224,212 — will be six years old next month and therefore does not meet the criteria of Hart’s policy of only licensing cars up to five years old.

After the meeting Hart’s licensing committee issued the following statement: “Having considered each application separately on its merits we find that public safety is paramount to the process and uphold the opinions of the licensing enforcement officer that regardless of age, the vehicles’ conditions render them unsuitable for use as Hackney Carriages.”

In a letter to Mr King, Dr Emberson expressed concern about Hart’s decision not to renew the licence for the Nissan Serena.

He said the car passed all 42 items on the examination sheet and the garage described it as being in “exceptional condition”.

“The vehicle, despite its age, is the flagship of our fleet of nine Mondeos,” states Mr Emberson’s letter.

“It has the lowest mileage of all our vehicles, it is the most expensive and it is in the best condition.”