10 May 2023
#Property, Planning & Development, #Planning, Environment & Sustainability
The increasing move to electric vehicles (EV) is driving demand for public charging stations and shopping centres are taking advantage by converting their parking spaces to charging stations. Various specialist companies are licensing the parking spaces and installing the charging equipment.
While the demand for EV charging stations is clear, there are planning and building approval issues that need careful consideration by property owners and managers.
Charging stations are seen as a new retail service, not as car parks. Essentially, a shop selling electricity through retail dispensers.
Depending on the planning scheme provisions, EV charging stations might fall under the same definition as a traditional service station, as is explicitly the case under the Brisbane City Plan. Designation as a service station could change the development approval requirements.
Irrespective of the relevant use definition, charging stations are categorised for retail use which might require a new development approval or a change to an existing approval.
Parking spaces are often a mandated requirement under a development approval or planning scheme. There may be a minimum number of car parks required for the shopping centre. A change from parking spaces to EV charging stations could breach a requirement concerning the minimum number of car parks or parking spaces.
If the car park is undercover, that part of the shopping centre may also require a new occupancy certificate. Car parks are class 7 under an Occupancy Certificate. Shops (and service stations) are class 6.
The reclassification could also trigger a fire safety assessment and changes to fire safety systems. According to the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council Guideline on “Incidents Involving Electric Vehicles” (published 5 May 2022):
The ACT Fire & Rescue has published Fire Safety Guide 22 to deal with electric vehicles and EV charging equipment, and mandates a special hazard report to identify risks relating to electric vehicles and charging stations.
This is an area that will see continuing regulatory evolution as the relevant risks are better assessed and understood.
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