Petrol stations on the decline

There are now fewer petrol filling stations in the UK than almost a century ago, thanks to a surge in closures this year.

150 forecourts have already closed this year, according to figures released by oil industry body Catalist. There are now less than 9500 forecourts in the UK, including supermarket filling stations – the lowest number in the UK since 1912. The situation could become critical if the total number of forecourts continues to drop at the rate of recent years.

“Motorists could soon find it more difficult to refuel their vehicles if filling stations continue to close at the current rate”, said Ray Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA).

Holloway added: “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".

“Closures are not just in rural areas either. Urban closures are causing equal inconvenience for motorists. Oil company outlets are being closed as fast as independents are forced out of business. Strong supermarket outlet growth since the 1990s and resulting squeeze on margin has made motor fuel retailing a very unprofitable business.”

The PRA believes that Government involvement is critical to save the nation’s fuel stations. Holloway said: “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”.

A similar scheme exists in Scotland and the PRA believes it should be extended to Wales and England.