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Electric vehicle ‘charging arms’ opposed by Dublin City Council

Device that projects across a footpath ‘high risk to public liability’

Electric car owners who do not have off-street parking could find themselves in conflict with Dublin City Council’s planning rules if they erect new overhead charging “arms” outside their homes, it has emerged.

Electric vehicle (EV) owners without driveways have largely been reliant on public charging points. However, a Dutch-designed product that projects a charging cable across a footpath at a height of approximately 2.3m from a post installed on the homeowner’s property, has recently started appearing across Dublin.

Nigel Daly, whose company NMD installs and maintains EV charging stations, said the device provides a much safer and neater solution than running cables across the footpath.

“It is a significantly better proposal than people cutting a channel into the footpath and running live cables through it, which we’ve seen. Or people trailing the cable across the path, sometimes with mats over them. Even with mat, it’s a trip hazard, particularly for older people using walkers, and we would point blank refuse to install chargers like that.”

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Mr Daly said he has so far installed almost 50 charging arms. “These units are safe, they extend at a height that doesn’t pose any safety issues for pedestrians, they are in use in other European counties and in the UK and I think they are the best solution for people who don’t have driveways.”

Asked if the units required planning permission, Mr Daly said the onus would be on homeowners to establish that with their local authority, but he couldn’t see why there would be a problem. “They are no bigger than many garden ornaments, or a tree someone might install in their garden.”

However, Dublin City Council said such structures require planning permission “as it is a permanent structure to the front of a house”. Consent from the council’s environment and transportation department is also required “for extending on to the public footpath” but due to the “high risk to public liability” the council “will not give consent for structures like these to reach across the public footpath”.

A number of homeowners using the product told The Irish Times they cannot understand the council’s reasoning and said they had received no complaints in relation to their use.

“I’ve had this about six months, and before that I was using a cable across the footpath with a rubber strip, but I always felt uneasy about it, but I can’t see why the council would object to this,” one user in Clontarf said. “It’s on private property, it’s very discrete – and in the summer months it’s almost entirely covered by foliage,” he said. “It’s not an eyesore, it’s not a public hazard and it’s far safer than what I had been doing. So I wouldn’t really see the rationale for a request to remove it, and it hadn’t crossed my mind to ask them.”

There are no public charging points near his house he said. “When I was buying the car most garages said to me, if you can’t charge at home, don’t buy one.”

In Glasnevin another user said the price difference between charging at a petrol station or other public point and charging at home was a factor in the decision to install the device.

“We charge at night, and the domestic night rate is about 15-16 cent as opposed to 60-70 cent for public charging. We don’t charge very often, for €12 we’d get about 400km, and two charges would be about the same as a full tank of diesel.”

He and his wife have been using the charging arm for about two years and sought advice from the council before its installation. “Ours was the second in the county. We asked the council for guidance in relation to it, but we didn’t get a reply so we emailed a load of politicians, and one councillor did come back to us, but the response she got didn’t answer our questions,” she said.

The response from council officials in February 2022, seen by The Irish Times, said the council had commissioned a “strategic study” on EV charging but the strategy “has not as of yet been fully finalised and agreed”.

The Glasnevin couple said they had not had any complaints about their charging arm in the two years since its installation. “We’ve had loads of people call in and ask where to get it, but no complaints. The Government has a target for phasing out ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles, and there are thousands of homes in Dublin who like us don’t have driveways, so I don’t know how they’ll meet that target.”

The city council said it is “delivering high speed EV charging hubs across the city”. So far it has one in place in Finglas.

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