This evening, our branch coordinator James Vessey-Miller attended the meeting of Southend City Council.
Asking the council two written questions, James challenged the council over the impending crisis that will be publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in Southend-on-Sea.
Currently, Southend has only 9.8 publicly-accessible charging points per 100,000 people. A paltry figure when compared to Milton Keynes, with 137.3 charging points per 100,000 people. The council themselves operate six of the town’s EV charging locations, and at the time of writing, just two were operative. We argue this is simply not good enough.
“Since the council declared a Climate Emergency back in 2019, the council has been taking small but necessary steps to ensure that the borough reaches Carbon Neutrality by 2030; a direction welcomed by the city’s environmental groups.
As councillors will be aware, one of the biggest Carbon emissions for the city is from the sector of transport. Residents know full well the traffic chaos the city suffers already, and this worsening in congestion is only set to increase as the city’s population grows. With this worsening congestion comes worsening carbon emissions and as a further consequence, worsening air quality. This issue is already such to the extent that several of the city’s AQMA’s have already recorded illegally-unsafe levels of pollutants, near schools and residential areas.
Whilst Electric Vehicles are not exclusively the solution to these problems, they are a required step in rapidly decarbonising transit, and will be a core component to the city achieving its 2030 Carbon goals. Many residents are already investing in EVs, and that trend is set to continue over the coming years with new legislation preventing the sale of new internal combustion vehicles from 2030.
In this light, the council needs to urgently review the existing EV charging infrastructure across the city. Currently, there are 10 publicly-accessible charging locations in operation, facilitating just 22 EVs charging at any one time. Of the six PodPoint sites managed by the council, just two are working, with four whole sites currently inoperative. This is simply insufficient to facilitate this rising EV ownership across the city.
Just last week, CarGuide.co.uk ranked Southend-on-Sea as the third-worst place in the country to own an EV, as it has only 9.8 charging points per 100,000 people. Compare and contrast that to Milton Keynes, with 137.3 charging points per 100,000 people, and the problem is obvious.
The large majority of Southend’s residents don’t have access to off-street parking to facilitate charging at home, and the business community cannot be relied upon exclusively to install the required points on their own property. As such, council-operated public charging infrastructure will be vital in enabling this electrification, especially in residential areas.
Can the portfolio holder outline how the Council intends to meet the growing demand for EV charging points, and further, what steps the council are taking to incorporate new EV charging points into street furniture on residential roads across the city?
The Cabinet Member for Environment, Culture, Tourism, and Planning, Cllr Mulroney responded by saying:
Electric vehicles are part of the council’s transport decarbonisation programme and wider modal shift to active modes of travel. The council will be taking an evidence-based approach to the rollout of appropriate EV charging infrastructure in optimal locations that aligns and integrates with the forthcoming local plan and Local Transport Plan 4. A feasibility study will shortly be undertaken to understand the infrastructure challenges that the city face which includes disparate substation coverage and property-adjacent street furniture.
On completion of the feasibility study, officers will be able to establish a criteria that will maximise charging points for residents within the structural parameters of the city, taking a test and trial approach which will take place in parallel to resident engagement and discussions with UKPN to establish a medium-term plan for improving network infrastructure.
Electric vehicles are not the silver bullet, the aim of the council is not to replace combustion engines journeys with an equal number of electric vehicle journeys, but to move to a sustainable transport system where vehicle journeys are replaced by walking, cycling, and public transport where possible, and network congestion is minimised.”
More kicking the can down the road with more “feasibility studies”.