An electric car charging forecourt which was delayed over concerns about increased traffic has been approved by Essex councillors. The Gridserve charging station, which includes 31 charging points, a café, lounge, gym and children’s area, will be built in Wickford next to the A127.
But Basildon Borough Council's planning committee, which voted to defer the application in November last year, remained split over the decision. Three councillors voted in favour to three against, meaning the application passed on the casting vote of committee chair Carole Morris (Con, Wickford North).
Speaking at the committee meeting last night (January 25), Gridserve’s planning manager Emma Harding said: "Following a review of alternative options, Nevendon Road was considered the only viable option for this development." According to Ms Harding, the site is suitable because charging forecourts must be near major roads and junctions with high trip counts, grid connections with enough capacity and areas with a significant local population.
Since the deferral, a transport appraisal was submitted to the council which said most of the trips to the forecourt would be from people already using Nevendon Road. As a result, it is not expected that the proposals will create any new journeys. However, some councillors maintained drivers would still have new cause to stop and come off at the A127 junction in order to use the facilities. Councillor David Dadds (Con, Billericay East) said: "We all know that's a bloody nightmare that junction." He later said: "Coming that way, I avoid it like the plague if I can."
Councillor Patricia Reid (Labour, Pitsea North West) said: "This is something that we desperately need for the future but I feel it's in the wrong place. I think it is going to cause too many problems for a lot of people in their daily lives." But other councillors said that because the council had sought further information from Essex Highways, which has not objected to the proposals, refusing the application over traffic would be unlikely hold up in an appeal.
Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) said the country is in a "pivotal moment" in its transition away from combustion engines and that the borough "desperately" needs to build up a network of charging infrastructure. He said: "It is the sort of infrastructure that we actually need to have in this borough, but also in the country at large."
The site is also on the green belt, however it is considered to have met the very special circumstances required for approval, due to it's provision of renewable energy. At the previous meeting, Ms Harding said since Gridserve’s similar electric forecourt in Braintree opened in 2020, local uptake in electric vehicles has increased by over 25 per cent.
Updated: 27 January 2023
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