Finding it Harder to Find Fuel?

Filling station numbers in decline

According to oil industry body Catalist, 150 forecourts have already closed this year and there are now less than 9,500 forecourts in the UK, including supermarket filling stations. This is the lowest number of filling stations in the UK since 1912.

Commenting on this trend, Ray Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) recently said that motorists could soon find it more difficult to refuel their vehicles if filling stations continue to close at the current rate – "Motorists are now noticing gaps in fuel availability, and if it gets worse as expected, they will certainly be inconvenienced when searching for a forecourt in some areas."

  • should the AA be pushing government to aid the small filling station?, Or
  • should we be welcoming the drift to fewer, larger sites, with low prices?

Government involvement

The PRA has said that Government involvement is critical to save the nation's fuel stations – structure plans developed by local authorities must allow for maintenance of essential services such as forecourts. Some business rate relief is available to forecourt operators in rural areas but not in urban locations. From the evidence available they must extend this minimal support.

Highlighting the fact that the Scottish Executive has a grants scheme available to assist forecourt retailers in Scotland with capital investment the PRA has called on the Government in Westminster to consider a similar scheme for England and Wales.

The AA's role

AA Public Affairs thinks that the PRA's concern is justified. Whilst to date we have received very few complaints about the non-availability of fuel we know there are some areas of the UK where supply no longer exists at a local level meaning there's a real risk of some drivers running out. Choice of local supply is even rarer in rural areas, while the low stock turnovers mean that local garages can never complete on price with the major oil companies and the supermarkets on major routes and in towns.

The AA is concerned that if the number of filling stations continues to fall motorists will end up worse off and the AA will therefore need to call for some form of action. If you have already experienced a problem getting fuel or have no choice of supplier please tell us so we can build up a picture of the problem areas.

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3 September 2007