Plans have been submitted for a solar electric forecourt on Uckfield by-pass along with solar farm, WCs, coffee shop, retail, seating area, meeting rooms/workspace and a display area.
A consultation on the proposals was held earlier this year. Read about it in an Uckfield News story here: Have your say on proposal for Uckfield electric vehicle recharging forecourt.
The latest proposals differ from the original scheme having taken account of feedback in the consultation.
The application has been submitted by GRIDSERVE Sustainable Energy. It includes provision of car parking, hard and soft landscaping, and access arrangements off the Copwood Roundabout.
A statement submitted to Wealden Council with the proposals says the site in Uckfield would be one of the first in a network of GRIDSERVE Electric Forecourts and would be powered by clean, zero carbon solar energy.
The statement continues: “The forecourt would provide 24 rapid vehicle charging points beneath a forecourt canopy, three HGV charging points, eight branded charging points, six lower power charging points, parking for both customers and staff, a customer picnic area, and a storage area including bins.
“The Hub Building serving the facility is a two-storey building with ancillary accommodation to include WC facilities, a coffee shop, food/convenience retail, seating area, meeting rooms/workspace, and an area for the display of, and information about, electric vehicles.
“These areas, area all designed to maximise the customers’ experience whilst charging their electric vehicle.”
The proposed forecourt would have an area of 19 acres, on a site of 23 acres, currently agricultural land.
Access is favoured from the Copwood Roundabout at the end of Bell Farm Road, Uckfield, on the A22 Uckfield by-pass.
This is a change from the original proposal which was the subject of consultation. The access then proposed was south of the roundabout.
It is envisaged that unlike at a traditional petrol filling station where the average time spent from arrival to leaving is about six minutes the time spent at the Electric Forecourt would range from between 15 minutes to an hour.
The facilities proposed are designed to ensure vehicle owners have “an enjoyable and relaxing experience”.
An onsite solar farm would provide energy for the forecourt which could be fed either via a battery storage facility, by the solar farm, or via a grid connection.
The statement says: “If via the grid connection, the power purchased will be virtually sleeved and renewable. This will provide certified and guaranteed, 100% renewable energy to the Uckfield Solar Electric Forecourt.”
The statement concludes: “The proposed development would support both the electrification of transport and the renewable energy industry in the UK, by providing a development that will directly enable the local provision of high-quality customer centric electric vehicle charging infrastructure and facilitate the anticipated growth in the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK.
“The proposed development is in accordance with national planning policy which provides a presumption in favour of sustainable development and seeks to meet the challenges of climate change. In addition, the proposed development is in line with the policies of the adopted Local Plan.
“As such, the applicant considers the scheme to be an acceptable form of development and full planning permission should be granted accordingly.
• Members of Uckfield Town Council’s planning committee were outspoken against the proposals during the consultation period.
Cllr Duncan Bennett said on the Uckfield News Facebook page on April 23: “A so-called environmentally friendly concept, proposed in a dreadfully damaging location.
“A blot upon the rural landscape to the west of the town which the by-pass was always regarded as protecting.
“A mammoth charging facility which could be split up and located throughout the town in far less damaging locations.
“A solar array can go anywhere and feed into the national grid and then you could tap off at various locations as necessary.
“This is a purely money-making scheme which shrouds itself in a saving the planet cloak.
“I’m all for electric vehicles, but fast charging points do not need to be located in a vast complex, as has been proven in so many other cases.
“Not only does this proposal drain people away from facilities in the town centre at a time that high street businesses need all the help they can get, it also has potential to open the floodgates for further development outside of the town’s western development boundary.
“There are much better ways to provide the charging facilities which would be far less catastrophic for our local environment and the economy of our town. Don’t be duped, folks …”
Another member of the planning committee Cllr Jackie Love said: “This is a good idea but in the wrong place. We need to keep our open green fields as just that. I think we’ve all come to know and love our open spaces over the last few weeks and enjoy the outstanding part of the Weald we live in and it would be awful to lose more of it.
“I know we have to move with the times and electric is the way forward but not at the loss of our green fields.
“We’ve lost Ridgewood Farm, the back of the hospital, they are still trying to build on the grazing land off Eastbourne Road. There is a new industrial estate planned for Ridgewood estate/development. Why not build it there?”
• More details about the planning application, number WD/2020/1244/MAJ, can be found on the Wealden Council website.