As the government doubles down on a zero emissions future, Weightmans’ Lee Gordon explains the current legal landscape for those installing electric vehicle charging points.
A steady stream of government pledges has made the direction of travel clear. A shift to electric vehicles, and the provision of the infrastructure to support them, is critical if the UK is to reduce its carbon emissions.
The need for progress to support a carbon neutral car market is more urgent than it’s ever been. The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders announced sales of new fully electric cars increased by 158% in July. Yet, we are still in a period of transition. The sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars is to end by 2040 and there is a live government consultation proposing mandatory provision of charge points for both new developments and within existing non-residential buildings.
Recent government funding for local authorities to install on-street charging points, including within street lights for those without parking spaces, is welcome. But, it is clear that more must be done to deliver electric vehicle infrastructure at scale. This must include a strategy for delivering a visible rapid charging network across the country to give drivers the necessary confidence wherever they may go. Collaboration between councils and the private sector will be vital, together with necessary government support.
But, in the meantime, for any party with an interest in installing electrical vehicle charging points, the planning rules are clear and broadly supportive.
Planning permission is not required for the installation of wall-mounted electric vehicle charging points in areas lawfully used for off street parking – provided certain conditions are met.
The electrical outlet must not exceed 0.2 cubic metres in size, and it can’t face onto, or be within, two metres of a highway. The point also can’t be within a site designated as a scheduled monument or within a listed building.
The rules for installing an upstand with a mounted electrical charging are similar. Planning permission is not required if the upstand outlet does not exceed 1.6 metres in height from the level of the surface used for the parking of vehicles. Installation cannot result in more than one upstand being provided for a single parking space.
Several property considerations also arise. For leasehold property, depending on the terms of the lease, landlord consent may be required for alterations. If the charge point will sit outside, additional rights for access and maintenance may be required together with an obligation to repair.
For leasehold property there is also a need for clear allocation of responsibilities, and consideration should be given to provisions relating to possible reinstatement at the end of the term, applicability of rent review, service charge, security of tenure and insurance.
With these broadly encouraging planning rules, it is important that both property owners and the industry have strategies in place in light of increasing market demand for access to charging points and government proposals to impose mandatory requirements for both new and existing developments. The government consultation in respect of the latter closes on 7 October 2019.
Lee Gordon is partner and head of planning and infrastructure in Weightmans LLP’s built environment team.