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Winning at local lobbying

In March 2017 FSB Devon became alerted to the fact that there was only one electric car charging point in the North Devon area (in the Sainsbury’s at Barnstaple).

There were no points at all in the borough of Torridge in North Devon and only the one (at Sainsbury’s) in the North Devon Council area, which meant in over 50 miles there was one charging point. So when the tourists arrive during the summer months there was a very limited option to charge an electric car in 2017. 

Looking at the Devon as a whole, only Plymouth and some parts of Exeter were well serviced with electric car charging points. There were only three charging points in the whole of East Devon and only two in the centre of Devon.

With this knowledge electric car charge points became one of the local lobbying issues and charging points were quickly added to the list of policy issues that are raised when we meet local councils and local MPs.

By the summer of 2017 the, then Torridge branch, hosted an event to highlight the fact that charging an electric car in North Devon was a real problem. This event was held at a North Devon Hotel and was supported by Tesla, BMW and Nissan all of whom brought their cars to the event.

Charge master also came to the event. The event was held as a drop in and during the afternoon we met with a number of economic development officers from all over Devon who just wanted to talk. 

After the event the Devon area continued to raise the issue at all the local council meetings and when we met with the local MPs.  In December 2017 Exeter City Council announced that they would be changing all the fleet cars over to Nissan Leaf’s and they would be putting electric charging points in all their car parks. (They joked recently that this was due to FSB lobbying). This was the first of 12 councils in Devon to proactively support electric cars and the electric car infrastructure. 

By Jan 2018 with the changes at the FSB I encouraged the old Torridge branch Chairman to set up a special interest group (SIG) around infrastructure (really at this stage looking at the roads in Devon and pot holes). The first task of the SIG was to run a series of focus groups.

However, after running two focus groups looking at Infrastructure issues it became very apparent that those we spoke to were not interested in roads, they wanted to look to the future and they talked about electric charging points, carbon neutral business hubs and electric charge points outside business hubs. So with permission of the local policy chairman the new SIG became a future proofing (infrastructure SIG) with the expansion of wanting charging points all over Devon and at business parks too. 

The lobbying for this went back into full swing having been given a boost from the focus group meetings, and at the local council awards in November 2018 we were all delighted to hear Torridge Economic Development officer say that Torridge Council had agreed to a number of electric charge points. A real win for us. Now 10 out of 12 councils are supporting electric cars. 

As the icing on the cake at a recent meeting with Teignbridge Council electric charging points were raised and the Council Leader highlighted that this could be included in the plans. 

Lobbying as always a slow burn, but here in Devon we are delighted to see three out of twelve councils now supporting electric cars and either planning or having in place electric car charging points.