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Kentish Gazette Column: Electric Vehicles

Kentish Gazette

Rosie Duffield MP column

14.02.19

There’s been lots of talk locally about Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points. Canterbury City Council announced last month that 12 charging points will crop up around our district in the early part of this year, after they agreed a contract with Swedish company, Vattenfall. The charging points will be paid for by a grant from the UK government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

The OLEV scheme was introduced a few years ago as a way of incentivising local authorities and individuals to convert to electric vehicles, by offering money for EV charging points. The government announced that they had made £4.5 million available, with the hope that councils would take up the technology so that towns can start to reap the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

With this relatively large amount of funding available, it is puzzling that the city council has decided to waste this opportunity by spending such miniscule amounts.
The council received £72,000 from grants; since the council only has to cough up 25% of the funding, they’ve hardly made much of an investment at all – they certainly haven’t made the most of an opportunity to put Canterbury on the map as part of the electric vehicle revolution.

From my point of view, the city council’s failure to take full advantage of this incentive is a blow to our city’s aspiration to have real green credentials. This is just another failing of the current local government administration and comes off the back of the Westgate multi-story car park being given the go-ahead: an expensive project that only encourages pollution and a further influx of traffic. What this states clearly to local people is that the environment is not a priority for those in power at Canterbury City Council.

Yes, twelve EV charging points are better than none, but this does not even begin to scratch the surface of what’s really needed to transform Canterbury into a future-proof City fit for this century.

The truth is that 3 of the chargers are being placed in council car parks,

where users have to pay the full parking amount (average of £1.70 per hour) on top of the cost of the electricity. The other nine will be placed on various residential streets (often with permits needed) around Canterbury and Whitstable. This may be helpful for those who are already owners of an electric vehicle, but does very little to incentivise people to make the transition to electric cars. They should be available in city and town centre streets, where parking can be free for those who need to charge.

I am hoping that Canterbury City Council will start to put the environment at the heart of its decisions going forward. I question the timing of the roll out of this “green agenda” from our reactionary Council. Perhaps this is yet another election- year gimmick? A Labour Council would seriously put the environment at the heart of our plans for the future of Canterbury, rather than offer up these half-baked, tokenistic efforts at improving air quality and encouraging greener energy choices.

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This article was published in the Kentish Gazette, issue dated 14.02.2019