CHARLOTTE Sowerby is hoping 2003 will herald an end to a run of bad luck which has plagued her bid to run her own horse-drawn taxi service.

Richmondshire District Council's decision to grant her a licence last May should have been the beginning of a brave new venture into the business world for the 26-year-old from Hawes, Wensleydale.

However, she was devastated when one of her ponies collapsed and died and, even when she acquired a replacement, she found she could not get out on to the road until the Criminal Records Bureau had given her the all-clear to run her own business.

By the time the Government department gave her its permission, the 2002 summer season was almost over anyway, so Charlotte decided to hold fire until this spring.

But today she is facing another race against time - to be fit and back on her feet after breaking a bone in a fall from her new pony last September.

"I've been unlucky - again - as the broken bone is one which doctors say take a long time to heal; and because it's unusual, no one seems to want to say just how long it will take to mend either.

"I have been able to put some weight on it recently but I haven't been able to do much with the ponies or the carriage, so I'll have all that to see to once I'm mobile again."

Richmondshire council was due to reconsider Charlotte's Hackney Carriage licence application this week, although she has been told it is expected to go through without a problem.

"I'm just hoping, this time, it will mark the start of a more positive year,'' she said.