VISITORS to Minehead could be enjoying horse-drawn carriage rides along the seafront if council chiefs relax a licensing rule.

A bid to run a 'wagonette' style carriage, pulled by a single Shire horse, on routes from the town's golf course to Culvercliffe has been put forward by the Moore family.

But the proposed seven-seater vehicle falls foul of West Somerset Council's licensing regulations which state that all passenger seats must face frontward or rearward to the direction of travel.

The wagonette meets all other requirements but has side-facing seats.

However, the council's licensing committee was being recommended to grant an exemption from the regulation on seating arrangements at its meeting today (Friday).

In a report to councillors, licensing officer Kay O'Sullivan said Mr and Mrs Moore had researched alternative carriages in an attempt to comply with the standard requirement.

But, generally, forward and rear facing carriages only carried up to four passengers.

Although one alternative, the 'Surrey' could seat six people, it was heavier and longer, making it more cumbersome and less manoeuvrable in traffic.

Mrs O'Sullivan said the applicants felt they needed to provide seven passenger seats to make the business financially viable.

In a statement to the committee, Mr and Mrs Moore said they wanted to offer an affordable and enjoyable horse drawn experience.

"We have done some research and have had a positive response, importantly from the West Somerset Railway, who would welcome a pick-up point on the forecourt just outside the station," they said.

"We want to use a smart new wagonette carriage that we believe will offer a smooth, spacious and safe ride.

"We hope that rides given by our good looking Shire cross bay will enhance the seafront atmosphere and provide an added visitor attraction."

A maximum charge of £21 for seven passengers is proposed - cheaper than the previous horse drawn carriage that operated along the seafront eight years ago.

Councillors were being urged to grant the exemption on the grounds that the public's health and safety would not be compromised.