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Skip and grab hire firms operating under restricted authorisation and transporting waste are being warned by the traffic commissioners to upgrade their licences – or face revocation.

TC Nick Denton said a more “robust and consistent manner” was being applied now to the definition of ‘hire and reward’ and applications for a restricted licence were being refused if it was clear that the sole function of the operator was the transport of waste.

His comments were made in a recent decision following a public inquiry in Cambridge, which scrutinised the business activities of Leicester-based Wigston Skip Hire.

The firm had attempted to apply for a restricted licence so that it could hire out skips and then transport the waste to other companies’ waste transfer stations.

Wigston’s owner James March argued that all skip hire businesses in his area were operating under a restricted licence.

At the PI, the company’s transport consultant Chris Harris told the TC that “requiring Mr March to apply for a standard national licence, with all the expense and difficulty of acquiring the services of a transport manager which that would entail, would put him at a competitive disadvantage against those many skip operators in the Eastern Traffic Area which operated under a restricted licence.”

The consultant then provided the TC with a list of all those operators.

However, Denton refused the application and said it fell foul of the licensing requirements.

In his written decision, Denton said: “I note Mr Harris’s argument that fair competition would be prejudiced if Mr March were denied a restricted licence.

“However, I note too that, for the past three years at least, traffic commissioners have been applying the hire or reward definition in a more robust and consistent manner than might previously have been the case; they have been refusing applications for restricted licences by would-be skip hire and grab hire operators whose sole or main function would be the transport of waste - unaccompanied by any or much processing.”

The TC added: “As the restricted licences of such businesses have fallen for renewal, the opportunity has been taken to require them to upgrade to standard national licences or face having their restricted licences revoked.

“It would be unfair on these operators if I now followed a different approach and granted Mr March’s application.”