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Government report shows big decline in UK forecourts and fuel reserves

The Deloitte Report “Study of the UK petroleum retail market” released by DECC today, shows a continued trend of closures seen in the past 40 years from a peak of more than 37,500 in 1970, to less than 9,000 in 2011.

Meanwhile fuel reserves in the retail sector stand at up to eight days – down by two days from 10 years ago.

The DECC has responded to the report saying that market changes have not had a significant change on fuel supply.

The survey found that motorists in 92% of postcode areas have more than two petrol stations 10 minutes drive away and the remainder have an average 13-minute drive to a forecourt.

The DECC also added that while the number of forecourts dropped by 20% during 2004-12, the number of pumps has only declined by 11%. This is in part due to the increase in overall numbers of supermarket sites which tend to have more pumps per site.

Energy Minister John Hayes added: ‘The report has also found the UK retail sector has more than enough capacity to meet fuel supply shocks before contingency measures are put in place.’

However, the Petrol Retailers’ Association has commented on the report, with chairman Brian Madderson saying that it ‘indisputably confirms that the majority of fuel forecourts are running with dangerously low levels of stock and that the continued closure of forecourts is reducing onsite storage capacity across the country’.

The association has also highlighted the report’s finding that 5,500 independent forecourts, which equates for 60% of the total, are being forced to cut back stock levels to control working capital costs.

Madderson continued: ‘The report is interesting desktop research but is not helpful if our forecourts run out of stock, such as the situation caused by “panic buying” in March this year.’

Commenting on the recent report that planning applications for at least 50 new hypermarket filling stations are in the pipeline for the next four years, Madderson added: ‘This scenario just further reduces onsite storage capacity and retail energy resilience across the UK, making our economy yet more vulnerable to the consequences of industrial disputes or supply outages.  With more than 35 million vehicles on the road and no immediate alternative source of motive power, the UK remains a road transport economy critically dependent on fossil fuel availability.’

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.