Could an Increase in EV Charging Points be a Hazard?

An organisation which promotes more walking and less street clutter is concerned that proposals to permit more electric vehicle charging points could create problems for pedestrians.

Image credit SSEN

Living Streets believe that planning permission is an important safeguard ensuring footway space isn’t lost in housing developments, especially avoiding the creation of pinch points below a 1.5 metre clearance – the acknowledged minimum for comfortable passage of a wheelchair or person being assisted by a guide dog.

The Scottish Government is carrying out a review of permitted development rights (PDR) . The review is being taken forward in phases, with each phase looking at the potential for new and extended PDR for specific development types. The phase 2 proposals includes electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Link: Planning – permitted development rights review – phase 2: consultation

At the moment electric chargers usually don’t have Permitted Development Rights, therefore planning permission is usually required. But new permitted development rights could be made available to councils and private charging companies.

Stuart Hay, Director, Living Streets Scotland, said:

“Footways cluttered with EV charging points and trailing cables present serious problems for people with wheelchairs, buggies or guide dogs, preventing them from getting around easily and safely. Attention to detail is critical, and in almost all cases pavements aren’t suitable for electric chargers.

“The impact the proposed changes will have on disabled people is greatly underplayed in the consultation. Further engagement is needed, which must be accessible, including the use of non-technical language appropriate to the public.

“Cluttered pavements also impact on everyone’s desire to walk their short journeys instead of driving them. If we want to encourage cleaner, sustainable ways to travel then we need streets that are walkable.”

There has been a significant increase in the number of EV charging points. Most are located in car parks. Organisations that support people who are already struggling with a rise in pavement clutter impeding their ability to move around, have voiced their worries about the implications of EV chargers being placed where they will be a hazard to people trying to negotiate our streets.

Craig Spalding, CEO of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, said:

“We’re fully behind initiatives to bring about positive environmental impacts, but it’s important these are balanced with access to community spaces. We’re concerned that the rapid rollout of e-chargers without sufficient planning procedures could see charging points appear in places that cause accessibility issues and obstacles for people with sight loss.”

And Niall Foley, External Affairs Manager, Guide Dogs Scotland, added:

“While we welcome measures to reduce our carbon footprint, EV charging points can prove a hazardous obstruction for people with sight loss if they are not installed with care. It’s important to have consistent guidance and standards to ensure that EV charging points are not barriers to pavement users.”

On 10th of October 2019 The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 banned pavement parking, double parking and parking at dropped kerbs.  Local authorities were given powers to enforce the bans. The Scottish Government consultation on the ban closed in March of 2022. There has been a delay in the implementation of the ban. Councils in Scotland have said that the impact of Covid meant that surveys could not be undertaken. The surveys would allow councils to provide some streets with exemptions to the ban.

Pavement parking is huge problem for all of us , but especially for those with a sight disability, wheelchair users, and anyone trying to push a buggy or a pram. It blocks pavements and streets forcing people onto the road.

According to Scotland’s National Transport Strategy, walking and wheeling are the most important modes for The Sustainable Travel Hierarchy.

The Sustainable Travel Hierarchy from National Transport Strategy

The Strategy will support the vision set out in Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework and, in line with the Framework, ensure that ‘all disabled people can travel with the same freedom, choice, dignity and opportunity as other citizens’. Disabled people have the same rights as every other citizen in Scotland and we will listen to and work with disabled people to ensure these rights are realised.

If this hierarchy is ever going to be achieved, if people are going to be able to walk safely without obstructions on our streets, then planning regulations and enforcement have to take place. Currently that is not happening.

Fiona Grahame