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Backlog at driving test centre prompts request to extend opening hours

Extended hours and flexible shift patterns are two measures being proposed to shift the waiting list for driving tests in Peterborough. 
Peterborough learner drivers face a near six-month wait to take their driving test

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has submitted an application to Peterborough City Council’s planning department requesting permission to change the opening times for the test centre. 

This would help to meet local demand for tests, which is being described by the DVSA as “unprecedented”. 

The Covid-19 pandemic brought all driving tests to a halt but Peterborough’s test centre faces a backlog even worse than the national average. 

Nationally there is a backlog of around 417,000 people awaiting driving tests – leading to an average waiting time of 17 weeks.  

But customers at Peterborough's driving test centre are currently facing a wait of up to 25 weeks. 

In 2007, when permission was granted for the demolition of the former test centre and a new one built in its place, conditions were attached to the approval. 

One such condition stated that opening hours could only be 8am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, excluding public holidays “in the interests of residential amenity”. 

The recent application seeks to extend this to 7am to 6pm from Monday to Sunday, including bank holidays, in order to reduce waiting times. 

A variation of this condition was submitted in 2008 to increase the hours of operation to 7.30am to 7.30pm on all days of the week including bank holidays, but this was refused. 

At the time, the council planning office said: “The proposed increase in the hours of operation of the test centre would adversely impact upon the amenities of the residents of the adjacent mobile home park properties at times when they could expect periods of quiet.” 

But the DVSA has said in its recent application that “changes introduced in December 2017 mean sounding of the horn within the safety questions part of the test has ceased” and hope that this change will mean the noise impact will be limited.  

There will be no change to the proposed hours of motorcycle testing. 

Under normal circumstances the DVSA states that examiners would conduct seven driving tests in one day. 

Due to the national lockdowns tests have been significantly reduced – and Covid-secure measures meant that even when testing resumed in July 2020, examiners were only able to conduct five tests per day. 

The proposed change to the permitted hours will, the application says, “help DVSA address waiting times faced by customers and provide further flexibility when planning shift patterns at the site, allowing for social distancing and traffic flow”.