A BITTER High Court legal battle between taxi drivers in Worcester and the city council is set to be scrapped - after a major u-turn.

Your Worcester News can reveal how the council is looking to water down a new hard-hitting policy on taxi vehicles after it enraged cabbies.

Last November, in a bid to help reduce spiralling taxi numbers licensing chiefs agreed that drivers must buy brand new cabs once their vehicles are deemed too old.

Prior to that point, under old rules once the car reaches around 12, taxi owners were allowed to replace them with vehicles aged up to three.

Worcester Taxi Drivers Association has launched court action over the change but the city council held a private meeting with the trade on Thursday for fresh talks over it.

Councillor Paul Denham, chairman of the city's licensing committee, now says the policy will be changed.

"A number of people came along and convinced us it would be unreasonable to have to find so much extra money to buy a brand new taxi," he said.

"Our feeling is that we now ought to change the policy so it's one the drivers can live with.

"I think we can still look at ways of gradually improving the quality of the fleet without doing it in this way.

"We've listened, it's not our intention to put people out of business - in some ways the policy was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

Only last week drivers said they faced "ruins", revealing new cabbies straight off the production line can cost nearly £40,000.

Older taxis can typically be £10,000 cheaper, or even lower if they shop around.

A new report will now go to the next licensing committee meeting in June for a vote on a relaxed policy.

Lesley Borthwick, from Worcester Taxi Drivers Association, said: "It's a lot more than we had this time last week.

"We've said all along the policy isn't right - it's good to hear they agree with us on that.

"But we need to see what they come up with. I'd be happier if they'd drop it now."

She said the trade would not halt its legal action until the new policy is voted through.

In February the committee passed a new rule which means no more cabbies will be allowed a licence until numbers fall sharply.

Worcester currently has 263 hackney carriages, and the cap is set at 230, which means at least 34 must quit before any more are dished out.