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Driving instructors take fight to the Assembly; MP joins bid to save test centre.

Byline: Catherine Evans

DRIVING instructors are taking their protest against the closure of a South Wales test centre to the National Assembly.

During a meeting at Barry Conservative Club, around 25 instructors organised a petition to save the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) centre in Barry's Dock View Road.

But they backed down on plans to take their learners to the busiest parts ofCardiff at rush hour ordo a "go-slow" through the city centre to get themselves heard.

Members of the Save or Relocate BarryTestCentre campaign will launch a Facebook group on Monday, and are currently distributing details of their online petition.

Campaign spokesmanLyndonDavies said: "The best way forward is to get a petition going. If we all go to Culverhouse Cross with our learners it could be dangerous."

The rowis over the planned closure of the DSA test centre in Barry from January. The move would mean instructors having to take learner drivers to the test centre in Fairwater, Cardiff.

Instructors in the area saidmoving to Cardiff would cost their learners more money because of the extra distance and time to travel to the Fairwater test centre fromBarry. And they added that moves by the DSA to make itself more environmentally conscious were being ridiculed.

One disgruntled driver said: "We are supposed to promote eco-driving using less fuel on the roads. Now we'll get stuck in traffic in Cardiff.

"And Cardiff is already saturated with instructors who would slash the prices of their lessons, sowewould lose out on trade too."

Vale MP John Smith and AM Jane Hutt have already backed the campaign to keep the centre in Barry. Barry Council has offered the DSA two possible sites for relocation, but they have been rejected.

In a letter of support to the campaign, Ms Hutt wrote: "I have written to the minister for transport in the UK Government who is responsible for the Driving StandardsAgency to askhimto intervene and ensure that the test centre is retained or relocated in Barry.

"I am also raising this with the minister for the economy and transport in the Welsh Assembly Government, IeuanWyn Jones AM.

"As the largest town in Wales, Barry needs its own test centre.We knowthat reliance on the Cardiff test centre would be costly for test candidates as well as local driving instructors."

She added: "At a time of economic downturn, it is vital thatwe support our young people in acquiring skills such as drivingcompetencewhichwillenhance their employability, job and career choices."

The DSA claims the Barry centre is unsuitableandinadequate,andcentres in Cardiff and Bridgend have the capacity to cope with the extra workload.

But campaigners argue the Fairwater centre is no better equipped than the Dock View Road centre.

Ms Hutt, Mr Smith and members of the DSA are expected to attend a further meeting on January 12.

Copies of the group's petition will be available from local instructors, shops and on Facebook.

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The Driving Standards Agency test centre in Dock View Road, Barry
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 17, 2009
Words:496
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