In November 2021, the government announced that they would bring forward new legislation to ensure that new homes and buildings such as supermarkets and workplaces, as well as those undergoing major renovation, will be required to install electric vehicle charge points. This seems like an easy win for the government – the headline is punchy, simple, and seemingly effective. However, a lot remains to be seen when the details of the policy are announced.
Whether Councils have the power to mandate charging points as part of new developments depends on national and local planning policies. The NPPF 2021 requires that planning applications should be designed to enable charging of plug-in and other ultra-low emission vehicles in safe, accessible, and convenient locations. Whilst current policy therefore envisages support for electric vehicle charging points being provided as part of developments, the national policy stops short of detailing the provision required. There is therefore no UK wide requirement for electric vehicle charging provision.
The London Plan 2021 requires that residential development provides 20% of parking spaces as active charging facilities, with the remainder having passive provision (i.e. a network of cables and power supply which is necessary so that at a future date a socket could be added easily). Office and retail parking is also required to be provided with infrastructure for charging in various active/passive forms. Many local authorities have developed their own local plan policies and guidance, for example either requiring a certain amount of charging points to be provided or that developments ensure future provision could be provided where reasonable and proportionate. There is therefore a trend towards local authorities requiring charging points and relevant infrastructure as part of new development.
The usual route to securing the provision of the charging points is through a planning condition. Provision could be made off-site by requiring developers to enter into highways agreements or by requesting that the developer pay a contribution to be used by the relevant authority.
A positive of the policy will hopefully be that a consistent approach to electric vehicle charging will be applied across the country, which should help to ease concerns as to access to charging points. However, the practical impacts may be limited. There are a few reasons for this:
- The government has yet to announce details – how many charging points will be required and what constitutes a ‘major renovation’? The details will influence how much of a practical change it will have, given that many local authorities already have policies in place.
- The position for properties which do not have any off-road parking – conversions of such properties may not be caught by the policy, but other types of contribution may be required. This has not been made clear in the policy and such properties may hamper the government’s ability to roll out electric vehicle charging points as widely as it would like.
- Encouragement to buy electric vehicles – policies to increase the number of charging points will need to be matched by an investment in grants, loans, and other financial (and other) incentives to encourage home owners to make the switch.
A much broader question is whether the government is right to be focusing its efforts on encouraging continued reliance on private modes of transport and whether investment in, and a focus on, policies which encourage the use of sustainable transport (such as cycling, walking, and public transport) would be a better use of time and resources to help to achieve some of the key milestones to which the government has committed itself. Of course, it is not simply a case of one or the other, and the government may well make further announcements in the near future which are focused on sustainable transport reforms.
As always, much will depend on the detail of the policy. Whether the changes will lead to an increase in the provision of electric vehicle charging points or have any practical effect, remains to be seen.
Emily Knowles is an Associate at Sharpe Pritchard LLP
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