WINCHESTER civic chiefs have backed down from forcing taxi drivers to sit in the cold while waiting for fares.

The city council was proposing to make the drivers switch off their engines, even in freezing weather, to stop harmful exhaust emissions polluting the atmosphere.

Winchester City Council’s licensing and regulation committee met at the Guildhall on January 16 to discuss the proposal that licensed Hackney carriages should not leave their engines idling.

Chair of the committee, Cllr Fiona Mather, said the committee felt such a decision would be difficult to put into practice.

“It would be a bit impractical, when you’re waiting in a queue for example,” Cllr Mather said. “It can be extremely cold and we don’t want people to be frozen into blocks of ice.

“We just want them to understand there is an emission zone in the city centre.

“We had a very good debate and we came up with a change to the wording to accommodate the concerns raised by the drivers.”

Some of the complaints the committee received said turning off engines during the winter was not an option for taxi drivers.

One driver, Jaleel Iqbal, said in an email to the council: “So who thought of this brilliant idea that taxi drivers should not be allowed to keep their engines running when they are waiting at a taxi rank? Did this person stop for a moment and think why taxi drivers do this?

“No one does this out of joy. It is done because of the weather conditions. If you are waiting 30-60 minutes for a fare in cold weather how else does one warm himself without switching the engine on?”