Newry, Mourne and Down District Council look set to be the first in Northern Ireland to apply for an on-street residential charging point grant in a bid to upgrade infrastructure.
At a meeting of the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) committee on June 14, members ratified a decision to allow council officers to spend £5,000 on consultancy advice before the local authority applied for the grant.
Assistant Director of ERT, Jonathan McGilly said the advice would allow the council to investigate how many electric charging points would be needed for the district.
The On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme, which is administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), will allow for the council to apply for a grant up to £100,000.
The purpose of the scheme is to increase the availability of on-street charge points in residential streets where off-street parking is not available.
The scheme gives local authorities access to grant funding that can be used to part-fund the procurement and installation of on-street EV charge point infrastructure to residential needs.
Sinn Fein councillor Roisin Mulgrew welcomed the report, saying it was the ‘way forward for the entire community’.
She said: “I know when we started seeing these [charging] points appearing in different car parks it was a novelty if you actually saw a car at them.
“But there is no doubt about it, that this is the way people feel this is the way the world is going.
“We need to have the infrastructure in place because for people coming into our city and towns, if they don’t have this facility then they simply won’t come and I am more than happy to agree with the officers.”
Councillor Mark Gibbons said the community was in “dire need” of new electric vehicle infrastructure.
“I think we need charging points right throughout every town in the district because they are getting more and more popular,” added Cllr Gibbons.
“More people are now coming on to me and asking me where they are or telling me that the ones that are in the district are not working so I would welcome this.”
However, Independent councillor Glyn Hanna questioned whether the electric charging points would remain free-of-charge to the public.
He added: “At the moment you can go to [an electric charging point] and don’t pay for the electricity and I would question what is happening with them in the future.
“You don’t get electricity for free and I wonder who is going to be paying for the electricity [in the long term].”
The council said that any additional costs for the EV points would be taken into consideration as part of their next report which is expected within the next three months.