To consider the attached update report.
4.1 The Chair invited Philip Williams, Lead Commissioner – Community Infrastructure, to present this update report. Members noted the following points:
· This report was a follow on update from the draft Gloucestershire Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) strategy members considered at their meeting in March 2020.
· The Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure rollout had been impacted by Covid as resource from the department had to be diverted to other areas. Atkins were therefore approached last summer and additional resource was procured to help support the rollout going forward.
· This report summarised the work that had been ongoing during the Covid pandemic and the next steps.
· There had been continued learning from networking with other local authorities and electricity suppliers in the south west. The Energy Savings Trust also provided useful challenge on the Strategy during discussions on funding.
· The team had been working closely with GCC’s procurement department to understand how the new Dynamic Purchasing System for the Council would work for this Strategy. They had also explored how to make sure the procurement contract was available for other local authorities and bodies in Gloucestershire to use so they did not have to go through the lengthy process GCC has had to.
· The next stage was for the lead Cabinet Member to decide whether or not to adopt the Strategy as it was, which would then enable officers to begin the tender process.
4.2 It was questioned how long after the decision from Cabinet would the rollout begin. It was advised once the Strategy had been approved; it would only be a few months. The rollout would be done in phases, and would depend on the levels of funding received from central Govt. through the procurement process. Unlike many other councils however, GCC had been investing its own money in this project for some time. This therefore gave us leverage to secure more Government grant funding and also with the charging companies in terms of where charging points would be installed.
4.3 Feedback from the Committee and experts had steered the first stage of the rollout to focus on areas where there was the greatest on-street residential demand for charging points. It was stressed therefore that even though the rollout may appear to focus on towns in the first instance, this did not mean the more rural areas would be forgotten. There were requirements attached to the grant funding from Govt. and we also had to be mindful of equitable access. Members were reminded that the EV charging market was vast and GCC was only one part of the overall rollout.
4.4 It was added that the rollout had to be organic, what we needed to avoid was starting with a list of locations and a roadmap rollout of 200 charging points, as by the time we got to completing the list the demand locations would have changed. The level of take up had increased dramatically in the past few years and we need to be able to respond in a more agile way to the varying demand. It was noted that the rollout will take account of areas where chargers have been requested, but will also have to match demand in that area so we did not end up with a charger being installed and only ever used by one resident.
4.5 It was queried how GCC judged potential utilisation of EV chargers. It was highlighted that in Tewkesbury for example, many areas struggled to have access to parking for their houses, let alone areas to park and charge. The rollout in such areas was going to be complex and could lead to residential streets becoming even more overloaded with vehicles looking to park than they already were.
4.6 In response, members heard that officers were using a wide range of data sets to understand the demographics of areas, taking into account a range of factors from economic to social requirements. This would help identify communities who were, for example, less financially able or less interested in making the change to EV at the moment whilst the market was still new. There was also an ongoing exercise of collating views from a number of organisations to share knowledge of what was happening on the ground.
4.7 The member welcomed the second part of this response, stressing that it was a very narrow alley to go down if we were simply going to look at datasets for assessing green credentials in areas. It was vital to take account of local representatives’ knowledge and awareness as opposed to only using data based marketing tools.
4.8 It was added that the team had listened to previous comments from members about not taking space away from pedestrians and cyclists in the installation of the chargers. The more compact equipment was expected to fit on pavements, otherwise there would be small islands on the road to accommodate it.
4.9 Noting that we had seen a significant increase in the uptake of EV in recent years, it was queried how GCC would meet the infrastructure demands if this level of increase continued. It was reminded that this was not GCC’s responsibility alone to provide the infrastructure; the rollout would include a mixed market of businesses, private residents and local authorities providing the charging points. For GCC its focus would primarily be on-street parking, for districts it would likely be off-street car parks, for example. The Govt.’s prioritisation of this area had been increasing, which brought more secured and maintained funding streams. A member requested data on the number of EV currently circulating in the county.
ACTION: Philip Williams
4.10 A member questioned whether GCC were actively working with district councils in order to achieve an efficient county wide policy. It was advised that at this stage in the rollout, there was closer working with some councils more than others. The area where there would be the greatest overlap was in sharing of experience and also sharing knowledge on the contractual angle. Members noted GCC had spent a lot of time and money to acquire the technical knowledge this project needed and wanted to avoid others councils in Gloucestershire needing to do the same.
4.11 In addition it was highlighted that it was hard to collaborate at the moment due to the pressures inflicted by the ongoing pandemic on all councils. This programme was only at the beginning of an initial three year implementation plan, meaning there will be a lot of future opportunities to work closer with districts and parishes. It was stressed however that there was not as much overlap between different council priorities as some may think.
4.12 An action was taken to liaise with the project team on having proactive conversations with others councils and establishing these procurement links where they were wanted.
ACTION: Philip Williams
4.13 Members noted that all councils could have access to the OLEV Govt. funding, as long as their request met the grant restrictions. For example, the fund could not be used to supply charging points in shopping carparks as this was classed as commercially viable. They would however be able to apply for a grant for a parish carpark that was regularly used by residents for overnight parking for example. There were grey areas of the criteria that OLEV were encouraging councils to take advantage of.
4.14 In terms of mapping location and availability of charging points, the Committee heard that there were a lot of open source mapping systems out there which Gloucestershire could feed into. It was important to understand that these points were not dedicated to residents or houses, they would be shared and open to those travelling through. It may also be that in certain areas, there will need to be a legal requirement that the bays can only be used to charge vehicles and not for general parking.
4.15 The Lead Cabinet Member added that what the team had demonstrated in this update was the careful tracking of the Govt. funding progress and should be congratulated for putting GCC in a good position to bid for this. One of the dangers we had to be aware of was thinking that this rollout was similar to planning for new housing developments, for example. This was a developing market, which was changing incredibly quickly, we had to make sure our strategy did not become too prescriptive. The market would continue respond, and we needed to be conscious we did not over provide whilst it was still in its infancy. Range anxiety was an issue when petrol stations first began to roll out in mass across the country, electric charging points would soon catch up the same way.
4.16 In respect to the planning system, the Cabinet Member urged that it needed to enable development for this project to be a success. A recent example was given of a site in the Cotswolds which faced a lot of objections from all angles and eventually ended up going to appeal. The appeal decision was given in less than 3 weeks and it was successful. The conclusions we could draw from this was that this Govt. was determined to see the planning system as an enabler in respect of EV infrastructure rollout.