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Millbrook 2019
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April 03 2019
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

DfT permit response avoids non-commercial

New, flexible short-distance exemption to come; otherwise, JR awaited before guidance is issued

From October a theoretical 10-mile exemption for permit holders coming

The Department for Transport (DfT) has issued a response to its consultation into the use of Section 19 and Section 22 permits – but it has shied away from issuing any guidance on the contentious non-commercial exemption that is at the centre of an ongoing Judicial Review (JR).

The document reveals that from October, legislation will be introduced formalising a theoretical 10-mile exemption for permit holders to the requirement to hold an O-Licence.

DfT says that responses relating to the non-commercial aspect were divided, with some arguing that ‘not-for-profit’ does not automatically mean ‘non-commercial’.

That is at the heart of the JR, which has been secured by the Bus and Coach Association. As a result, DfT “will not be making any further statements or providing any guidance on the ‘non-commercial’ exemption” until the JR is heard.

While a suggested 10-mile exemption was earlier greeted with scorn by community transport organisations (CTOs) in rural areas, the response clarifies that the figure is not set in stone.

Instead, rural CTOs will be able to make the case that ‘short distance’ constitutes more than 10 miles. Additionally, permit holders will be able to choose whether the use of a radius or a straight-line measurement suits them best.

In a letter to Community Transport Association members seen by routeone, Chief Executive Bill Freeman describes the flexibility in the definition of short-distance as “crucial.”

Mr Freeman adds: “The emphasis on treating every case on its own merits and allowing a degree of discretion for local circumstances are to be welcomed. We hope that carries through into how the non-commercial exemptions are treated once the High Court reaches its view.

“We are pleased to see [Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani] restating… that it would be premature for any local authority to end or withhold community transport contracts.”

CTA will carry out further analysis of the short-distance exemption and test its applicability in different scenarios. It hopes that permit holders that may no longer be able to take advantage of the non-commercial exemption will instead be able to utilise the short-distance rule.

Additionally, DfT intends to carry out a review of the current domestic permit regime to examine whether it remains fit for purpose and whether it provides the correct balance for the sector.

That is likely to include a review of permit-issuing bodies and whether there should be limits on the size of operations.

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