A MAN'S bid to stop a taxi firm from flouting planning laws seems set to fail - but Kirklees Council has been criticised by a watchdog.
Alan Jenkinson first complained to Kirklees after Abbey Taxis began to park more than the two taxis it was allowed under the planning permission it was granted in February 2000.
It has tried to double that to four, but was turned down on the grounds of parking and highways safety.
Since then the numbers have escalated.
Mr Jenkinson, 58, of Lipscomb Street, Milnsbridge, had complained to Kirklees Council for several years that the law was being flouted, but no action was taken.
In the end he took his complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, claiming the council was not enforcing its planning regulations.
He had a letter with the Ombudsman's provisional conclusions, which said that they regulations could not be enforced because the taxi drivers are self-employed, not employed by Abbey, and most of the taxis are being parked on private land.
But a subsequent letter by Local Government Ombudsman investigator Mrs E Watson said there may be evidence of fault by Kirklees if the emphasis of planning permission had been on the business itself, rather than on parking restrictions.
Mr Jenkinson said many of the cars were parked on an unadopted lane behind Lipscomb Street which he said caused congestion and was potentially dangerous.
"There is noise at all times of the day and night," he said.
"On our deeds the terraced properties lease half the width of the lane - but taxis are parked there.
"Sometimes the dustbin lorry can't get down because of the taxis, and our bins have been unemptied."
Mrs Watson said part of the problem was that many taxis were parked, in effect, on private land.
She said: "I have looked to see if there is any action open to the council here and I have reluctantly come to the view that this is a civil matter and therefore not one which the council can resolve."
But her letter said Kirklees had now changed the way it operated as a result of this experience.
She adds: "To prevent a similar situation occurring again, the council altered the wording in conditions attached to subsequent applications of this type."
In a letter to the Local Government Ombudsman last September, former Kirklees planner Keiron Dunn, who has now left the authority, admitted the interpretation of the word "operate" meant Abbey Cars could park as many vehicles outside its office as it wanted, yet could only operate two at any one time.
He also admitted there was a problem with the way two council departments fail to work closely together.
He said: "There is no formal arrangement whereby Kirklees Licensing check with Planning Services how many vehicles should be in use at a taxi business.
"The Planning Services is currently liaising with Licensing to address this problem."
He said the council tried to take action against Abbey Cars in November 2002, but hit a snag over the wording on the original planning application allowing it to "operate" more than two taxis.