More electric car chargers on motorways thanks to planning law change

Changes to planning legislation announced in the Autumn Statement should let motorway services upgrade electrical capacity and install more high-speed electric car chargers...

Jaguar I-Pace LT charging at motorway services

The Government has announced changes to the planning system that should speed up the upgrading of electric car charging facilities at motorway service stations.

Measures announced in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Budget Statement are expected to help make sure every motorway services has at least six high-speed public chargers for electric vehicles (EVs).

Although an official target of having that number of units available by the end of 2023 will be missed, the steps should lead to an acceleration in the number of working chargers available for electric car drivers to use on the motorway network.

At present, just 23% of the UK’s 119 motorway service stations have achieved the target of having six high-speed chargers, according to data from the RAC. The relatively slow increase in the number of units available has been blamed on planning delays.

When existing motorway service stations were built, they were provided with the electricity supply they needed at that time, but in many cases that wasn't enough to cope with EV charging hubs, which place extra demands on the supply. New electrical cables and substations need to be installed to manage the extra demand.

Without that upgrade, chargers often sit dormant because there isn’t enough power at the site for them to be used at the same time as all the main service station areas, such as food courts. 

Public electric car chargers

The problem was highlighted by Ken McMeikan, CEO of Moto Hospitality, who was talking on BBC Radio Today programme.

He said: "We've been rolling out EV chargers on our motorway network, and they’ve been sitting there with no power because there isn’t sufficient cabling either in the ground or overhead to take the power from source to where it’s required.”

He said that Moto has been trying to install more car chargers at its sites for two to three years, but due to planning issues it will only have the minimum requirement of six high-powered chargers at 60% of its sites by the end of 2023.

According to McMeikan, one reason for delays is that currently if local planning permission to install an electrical substation at a site is refused, it can take two years to reapply and go ahead with the work.

The changes introduced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on 22 November will “deliver a better service for businesses, including introducing new premium planning services across England with guaranteed accelerated decision dates for major applications and fee refunds wherever these are not met”, according to the Budget Statement.

It also pledges to create more certainty for low-carbon investors by extending the national priority designation for significant relevant projects, and remove unnecessary planning constraints to ensure the speedy rollout of EV charge points and EV charging hubs. 

Read more: Public charging networks rated

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