Neighbours may remember our report in June about an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging point being installed, with no clear warning or explanation, outside a resident’s house. He protested – not at the concept of an EV charging point, which of course no-one could really object to, but at the lack of consultation, given that a crumpled laminated notice replete with official jargon hanging from the lamppost just like another appeal for lost cats, could scarcely be regarded as consultation.
In response a senior officer of the council – having in due course ordered the demarcation of a dedicated EV parking slot outside our neighbour’s house – has just sent him a lengthy statement which explains their approach.
This is an attempt to summarise and simplify what they are saying.
Any reader with a thirst for more information and a capacity for council jargon can spend a happy hour or so ploughing through a report and appendices buried deep on the Lambeth website.
Meanwhile, here goes…
1. Lambeth assume that the EV market and user demands will rise and that the council should therefore cater for existing and potential EV users. But preserving normal CPZ parking bays adjacent to a new charging point could create difficulties and conflicts, hence the need for dedicated areas. The council assume that internal combustion engine (ICE) users and non-recharging EV users should still be able to find a permit space elsewhere locally (noting correctly that residents have no automatic right to park at their preferred length of kerbside).
2. Lambeth aim to increase the number of lamp column charge points across the borough, and as the EV market develops the council will need to keep their policy under review in supporting the increased demand for recharging. They say that not every lamp column would automatically be appropriate for a charge point installation. But even if almost all suitable lamp columns were to be converted into a charge point, they say, there would still be the risk that ICE vehicles could obstruct access to EV users wishing to recharge their vehicles – hence the need to provide dedicated EV charging bays, barred to other vehicles including even EV cars when they are not being charged. (Comment: if, at some future point, all cars were electric, demand for charging points could not be met simply by converting lamp posts, of course. What then?)
3. Lambeth have a general target to achieve. Particularly in roads with minimal off-street parking, no EV vehicle owner should be further than five minutes away from a charge point. Once this aim is met, additional charge points (e.g. in this case) can be provided to cater for known demands. (Er, how do they assess demand?) They rather defensively pointed out that a notice was erected explaining their intention – but our neighbour’s robust response to this feeble excuse points out, as mentioned above, that while there is general public support for the electric charging policy, Lambeth’s failure to properly communicate their policies and decisions typifies, unfortunately, the council’s tendency to impose policies with negligible explanation: “a half decent consultation programme would have dissipated a lot of the current unhappiness”.
The big unknowns
No-one seems to know whether the take-up of electric cars will accelerate or stagnate. Obviously there is no exhaust pollution from EVs, which is a huge benefit. But there is ample doubt about the wider economic and environmental benefits and costs, when you take into account the need for much additional electricity generation (by what means?), the painful cost of securing the rare ingredients for the batteries, which in addition cannot be safely recycled when they expire; and the gigantic environmental and financial cost of disposing of perfectly efficient modern diesel and hybrid vehicles in order to comply with government targets.
So I suppose Lambeth can be forgiven, in this sense, for keeping options open and proceeding step-by-step.
They are still rubbish at communication though.