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West Berkshire could see 'significant' rise in electric vehicles

Council approves Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Strategy

Local Democracy Reporter Nathan Hyde

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Electric car charging

PEOPLE in West Berkshire could soon see a “significant” increase in the number of electric cars on the roads.

Less than one per cent of the 119,664 vehicles in the district were ultra low emission vehicles in 2019.

However, West Berkshire Council is now encouraging people to swap their petrol and diesel vehicles for ones powered by electricity.

On Thursday, September 3, the Conservative-run council approved the West Berkshire Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Strategy.

The strategy states the council is committed to providing more electric vehicle charging points across West Berkshire and introducing incentives to encourage taxi drivers and other people to buy electric vehicles.

It also states the council needs to help create “some kind of charging infrastructure network” before 2035.

That is because the Government has said it wants to ban the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles in the UK by 2035 at the latest, meaning that only electric or hydrogen vehicles will be sold.

At the council’s executive meeting, the council’s executive member for the environment, Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham), said: “While we are at a very early stage now, I do anticipate that within the next three to four years there will be a significant number of electric vehicle purchases in this area.

“We will certainly build on this strategy and use this strategy to respond in a prompt way so that people are encouraged to buy an electric car.”

The council’s executive member for transport, Richard Somner (Con, Tilehurst South and Holybrook), said: “I would say the reason people don’t take up with ultra low emission vehicles is the cost of the vehicle.

“I think the cost of the vehicles needs to come down.

“If the Government can support that happening then they need to do so.”

According to the strategy, the council is considering a range of incentives, such as free parking and free charging for electric vehicles, but admits that these could “create additional issues”.

It states: “Encouraging more vehicles to come in and use free charging and parking creates additional congestion and by offering free charging, West Berkshire Council would effectively be paying people to drive, increasing vehicle use and further increasing the ownership inequality gap.”

However, Adrian Abbs (Lib Dem, Newbury Wash Common) was critical of the strategy, claiming there was “a lack of ambition”.

“I do not really understand why we are talking about an ultra low emission vehicle strategy when actually we want a zero emission vehicle strategy,” he said.

But Mr Somner said the strategy “is not the final product” and the council “need to be realistic”.

He added: “This sector is rapidly changing.

“The technology being developed, and the speed with which it comes forward, make it incredibly difficult for this to be an absolutely complete strategy.

“It is a strategy that allows us to start to build in the right direction.”

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