Windsor carriage driver fights for business after council ban

  • The owner of a carriage business in historic Windsor has said plans to pedestrianise a key part of the town will cause “a tradition to die”.

    Peter Langthorne has operated Windsor Town Horse Drawn Carriages from his rank at the top of Castle Hill for the past seven years, but will be denied access to the central tourist area if council plans go ahead.

    Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council (RBWM) has passed a proposal for a permanent manned barrier on Castle Hill that will only allow access to authorised vehicles between 9.30am and 4.30pm — which does not include Peter’s carriage.

    “They have said they want it as a sterile area and I will have to stand at the bottom end of the street by the entrance to the Royal Mews. It just doesn’t have the footfall there and I know I won’t have a cat in hell’s chance of surviving,” Peter told H&H. “We already have had a restricted volume of people because of the reduction in foreign visitors coming over.”

    Peter runs two pairs, Connemaras Ronnie and Reggie and Arab-Welsh crosses Vik and Silver, who he uses to take tourists on half-hour trips in the town for a few days a week.

    “I pay the same licence fee as a normal taxi on the rank and they can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. I just do from 12.30pm to 4pm or 4.30pm, which is enough for the horses and if it’s a warm day then I go home early,” Peter said.

    “It’s not a mega-money deal, it’s my pleasure, and I can’t see a reason why they couldn’t give me permission to go in [to the zone near the castle] for two to three hours a day.”

    The smartly turned-out greys and cremellos have been a welcome sight in the town and Peter said in summer people constantly come up and ask to pet them.

    “Many of the visitors to Windsor haven’t had much to do with horses and it’s a chance to meet them, they are a magnet,” he said.

    “So many local people have said to me that is would be a disaster to take away such an iconic local attraction — and yet the council is saying their reason for pedestrianising the road is to enhance the tourist experience.”

    Peter added that if the plans go ahead, his business will be finished and the horses would also have to go. There is another carriage operator in the town who has the monopoly over using the Long Walk, making it “imperative” he keeps his spot on Castle Hill.

    “People come out of the castle and they see me in my bowler hat and waistcoat and sometimes they even think I am waiting for royalty. Then they ask if they can book you — I have to rely totally on footfall for the work,” he said.

    “I have four horses to feed and if I lose the trade, I won’t have the money to keep them.”

    Peter said that the hackney carriage licensing officer had tried to fight his cause but his approaches to the council had received a limited response.

    “I tried to contact people in the council and not one person involved in development would meet me. I also recently emailed two councillors and they didn’t even have the courtesy to answer,” he added.

    Peter has launched a petition on Change.org which has so far attracted more than 500 signatures.

    A spokesman for the council said: The public realm improvements on Castle Hill are aimed at improving the overall experience and safety of residents and visitors in Windsor.

    “The improvements will not mean Castle Hill is entirely pedestrianised, but will give additional safety benefits with the significant reduction of vehicle accessibility, limited to castle access only during visiting hours.

    “The council completed a comprehensive consultation with local businesses and residents in December and January to gather comments about the improvements, with the scheme supported by the majority of respondents. During and subsequent to this, regular meetings have taken place to follow up issues raised by businesses and identify alternative solutions to allow their continued success.”

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