Lewis Clarke

By Lewis Clarke


Electric car charging points could provide an environmental boost for residents in new estates across Mid Devon.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, September 3, cabinet member for planning and economic regeneration Councillor Richard Chesterton (Lower Culm, Conservative) put forward the idea that officers look to start work on reviewing the authority’s development management policies regarding parking on new estates.

He explained: “These should include a number of parking spaces per property as well as how development management can help ease the transition to electric or hybrid vehicles in the future.  My emphasis would be on that last sentence and how we can move to encourage more electric or hybrid vehicles.”

He said that that evidence suggested that there had been little change to the council’s current 1.7 vehicles per dwelling standard, or the evidence applied to calculate those figures. This was due to little change in car ownership between 2002 and 2018.

“While car ownership has seen little change, the number of journeys being made is apparently falling,” he added.

“Mid Devon is a rural area, and therefore many areas have limited other transport choices other than cars.

“Taking all these factors into account, it’s considered the current minimum parking standards in officer’s opinion is justified and appropriate at this time. However, this needs to be kept under review as the next local plan comes forward and is progressed.

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Charging point

“We have considered how development management can help ease the transition to electric or hybrid vehicles in the future, and the local plan includes minimum standards for the provision of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

“In terms of possible future changes members may wish to consider, evidence indicates the number of ultra-low emission vehicles is rising rapidly in Mid Devon. It is therefore considered that a planning policy which requires a higher proportion of electric vehicle charging points within new housing and also commercial developments could be justified in the future.

“The most expedient way of achieving this is through electric vehicle charging infrastructure policy through the next development plan.

“It’s an important thing to keep looking at for the future because the more we can create infrastructure for electric and hybrid vehicles, the more likely people in Mid Devon are to take the decision to move that way at some point in the future.”

Cabinet member for climate change, Councillor Elizabeth Wainwright (Sandford and Creedy, Green Party) said it was important to review the procedures in the wake of Covid-19 regularly.

“I’m curious at suggestions of how homeownership and use of cars versus public transport is changing in the short, medium and long term future. It should be reviewed almost in sync with what we’re learning from Covid-19 and with our climate action plan.

“Also, not using electric vehicles as a silver bullet is important. We need to do everything we can to facilitate the infrastructure we need to make it a choice for the people who can afford an electric vehicle, but this can’t be in place of putting as much effort into public transport and connecting people to train lines and so on.

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“The issue is still that we have quite poor condition roads in Mid Devon, and moving everyone over to electric vehicle isn’t going to change some of the challenges we face.”

Cabinet member for finance Councillor Andrew Moore (Clare and Shuttern, Conservative) said he had often heard complaints that the standard 1.7 parking spaces per dwelling was “a ridiculous number.”

“Equally we need to be encouraging people to get away from their cars to using bikes and other bits and pieces, and public transport use as well,” he said.

“It’s an ever-changing picture, but the danger of just increasing slots could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We need to provide a lead to encourage the right sorts of behaviour.”

He added that he hoped the council would not kick the plans “into the long grass.”

“We are faced with a fairly significant need to move quickly on climate, and as we heard, people may only be buying five per cent of vehicles that are electric at the moment, that is probably set to increase.

“I’m wondering if there is anything we can do faster than accelerate the local plan a bit or maybe building regulations may do something faster, which will take us to ten per cent of units having a charging point to the government’s position of 100 per cent. Is there nothing we can do before this change?”

Head of planning, economy and regeneration, Jenny Clifford responded saying the situation was “changing rapidly.”

“We will need to undertake a comprehensive review of this, but also within the context of a wider review of transport strategy when we refresh the local plan.

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“’We are aware of the desire of officers to start that refresh of the local plan, on an accelerated programme. We will need to look at all of this, comprehensively, afresh, and of course, build in the desires around carbon neutrality to reflect the declaration that has since come forward.”

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