It’s the charge of theWestbury Park EV brigade!

PEOPLE in Westbury Park are urging Waitrose to extend the time limit on the electric vehicle charging points in its car park.

A group of residents who own EVs were initially delighted when the store took notice of their request for charging points and installed eight last year.

But their joy turned to dismay when they discovered these could only be used for one and half hours at a time – the period shoppers are allowed to use the car park. They say that most of the chargers are the cheaper, slower kind and need to be used for three or more hours.

The campaigners believe this is why it is rare for all the chargers to be in use at any one time. For example, at 11am on a Monday in August, only one vehicle was being charged.

Some users have already been issued with £70 fines for exceeding the 90-minute limit.

The campaigners, who have won the backing of Westbury Park Community Association, say that ownership of electric cars in the area is at least 3-4 per cent, even though many homes do not have off-road parking and trailing charging cables across pavements is illegal. 

One of them said: “The WPCA area is well known for people with a high level of environmental concerns, so it seems clear to us that lack of local access to charging points is discouraging more people from going electric; something that we should all be working towards.  

“Being able to charge electric cars cheaply for a few hours, ideally overnight, is the obvious solution to this but the costly 90-minute-only limit at the Waitrose car park prevents this.” 

Kevin Chidgey, chairman of the WPCA added: “It does not seem to us to be ‘rocket science’ to put in place some procedure whereby those charging their cars can get an exemption from the 90-minute limit.”

The Voice spoke to some users of the charging points, who agreed with the campaigners.

Kam Gorman, from St Andrew’s, said she had bought an electric vehicle just ten days earlier and had been disappointed to find she was having to make repeat visits because of the short charging time and the lack of alternative chargers.

“I was here yesterday but have had to come back to charge it up before I drive to Devon. I am livid. I am trying to do the right thing by having an electric vehicle but I am having to drive round in circles to find chargers.”

Jonathan Jones, from Durdham Park, who drives an electric VW ID4 provided by his employers, was using the fast charger at Waitrose. He is unable to install a charger at home, even though his firm would pay, because it is a private road.

“It can be a hassle to find public chargers,” he said. “The 22kw chargers aren’t that useful. More fast chargers would be better.”

Mr Chidgey said Waitrose had told WPCA that “we are putting in more rapid chargers, which are quicker to charge than ‘fast’ chargers and should help future sites”. 

But, he pointed out, these chargers were still not the long use ones and the store’s comment suggests that Waitrose does not intend to add them at the Westbury Park store. 

Waitrose told the Voice that 90 minutes was the limit. A spokesman said:  “We are offering a convenient way for customers to charge their cars with us while they shop. We’re in the process of improving signage so customers can be absolutely sure about how long they’re able to access these charge points.”

Parking at Waitrose is managed by an external company. The limit is set at 90 minutes, although people with disabilities can request additional time via the customers service desk.