Petrol stations drying up

Petrol stations drying up
20 Oct, 2011 11:31am Richard Yarrow

Forecourt numbers are at a record low nationwide, promoting fears of ‘fuel deserts’ as retailers feel the strain

Petrol station numbers in the UK have tumbled to a record low, official figures reveal. From a peak of 21,000 in the nineties, there are now only 8,500 forecourts in the country, prompting concerns that some areas will become ‘fuel deserts’.

The latest count shows that Fife in Scotland is the worst-hit area, with only 36 filling stations supplying more than 163,000 drivers – a ratio of one station to 4,538 motorists.

Our tables reveal that drivers in Berkshire are only marginally better off, followed closely by those in Hampshire.

In North East Wales, however, motorists enjoy the best access to fuel in Britain. The former county of Clwyd tops the table with 230 stations – a ratio of 1,023 drivers to each site.

The research was carried out by the retail wholesaler Palmer & Harvey, a supplier of convenience goods to forecourts. It notes that independent stations are the worst-hit, contributing to the erosion of local communities.

CEO Chris Etherington said: “These fuel deserts are a huge inconvenience to the already hard-pressed motorist. Filling stations are as important to the nation as local pubs and village shops. We will all suffer if these closures continue.”

Brian Madderson, chairman of the industry body RMI Petrol, welcomed the report, saying: “Increasing fuel taxes, crude oil prices and business rates, as well as unfair pricing regimes from some hypermarkets and oil companies, are threatening independent fuel retailers.”

Industry analyst Experian Catalist reckons the downward trend is slowing, but numbers could still drop to as low as 7,500 over the next decade.

10 fewest filling stations per motorist

Area Filling stations Cars Cars to filling station ratio
Fife 36 163378 4538
Berkshire 123 505662 4111
Hampshire 250 1020874 4083
Northamptonshire 110 436561 3969
Buckinghamshire 125 494280 3954
Northumberland 33 128999 3909
West Sussex 91 351484 3862
Staffordshire 151 565777 3747
London 592 2212893 3738
Essex 238 888983 3735

10 most filling stations per motorist

Area Filling stations Cars Cars to filling station ratio
Clwyd 230 235307 1023
Gwynedd 85 91361 1075
Powys 65 86605 1332
Dyfed 128 190345 1487
West Glamorgan 1425 2477549 1739
Dumfries and Galloway 38 72421 1906
Highland 55 106510 1937
Cumbria 115 244815 2129
Cheshire 225 520849 2315
Merseyside 218 535330 2456

Source: Palmer & Harvey

Disqus - noscript

The chances of existing stations surviving is best in the areas with high car per station ratios. The areas with current "best access" are most vulnerable to further closures as the stations cannot survive on such small numbers of customers. Think the adjectives should be reviewed.

some places dot help 4 your custome if u live in a small town u can pay up to 10 pence a leter more than a town just a bit bigger and if you got to go to that town you going to get the cheaper fuel than local.and then when u go to a bigger town 3 fuel stations in 400 yards at differnt prices of 3-4 pence.

When e.v's take over there will be no petrol stations left and we won't have to put up with the extra few cent per litre they add on, but it's the same situation here in Ireland, I blame tax and not fuel prices, only for the ridiculous tax applied by our governments we would not care about the current price of oil!

They don't understand the damage they are doing to our economies!

The number of stations per car is irrelevant. One station in a large town can serve many motorists a day, one in the middle of nowhere may not. Looking at Fife and Powys, in Fife there is one station per 36 square kilometres, in Powys there's one per 79 square km. I know that the number of stations per mile of road is more important than this, but wikipedia doesn't have the number of mile of road in a county listed.

I noticed the lack of fuel stations the bad way last time I was in the UK, visiting my sister in Devon. Ran out of fuel 2 miles before a station, reason being, as a kid I remember there being loads of petrol stations along that road, not now unfortunately, learnt my lesson.

Is this all because cars are getting more economical and small franchise businesses are becoming harder to run and survive?

As a Fife resident, I've seen filling stations closing, but these are mostly in villages where the number of customers means that they aren't viable. The nearest to my home is significantly more expensive than, for example, supermarkets so I tend not to use it. I know, if you don't use it you lose it, but in my defence times are hard and every penny counts. The only time I've struggled to buy fuel was in 2008, when the usual panic-buyers were forming long queues everywhere. I didn't run out and did manage to buy fuel. Since the profit on selling fuel is so low, the trend seems to be for bigger, town centre franchised sites which do compete on price. There may be fewer sites, but the price is competitive. It's a shame for small businesses selling fuel but, unless they sell other products as well, the profit margin on fuel sales doesn't make it worthwhile.

As a student, I used to work in a petrol station in Fife. This was about 7 or 8 years ago, back then it was extremely busy!

This was the only 24 hour petrol station within about a 10 mile radius, there was once a petrol station across the road from it ("Blue Chip" I think it was called) but this closed and apartments were built on the site.

The only competition was from a supermarket 2 or 3 miles up the road, which was sometimes a penny or 2 cheaper (though we did have to price match), but it wasn't 24hr and it was somewhat off the beaten track for visitors / those passing through.

I was told that the real profit was not in fuel, but on the purchases made in the shop - groceries, snacks, papers etc.

I NEVER buy fuel locally, it's priced way to high, I wait till we go to a larger town ( were fuel is priced more sensibly ) and fill up their.
The other fuel station I avoid is BP, total rip-off prices everywhere, avoid them like the plaque.

Your story is interesting and confirms the thoughts I had earlier this year when realising this closure trend I started ( as a personal project ) to photograph garages open or closed in and around my home county of Shropshire. There seems to be two ways the garage owners have decided to go, either to shut up altogether of cease petrol sales and just concentrate on servicing and repairs. There is always a sinking feeling when arriving at a garage in a rural area to find they have no longer sell petrol. I suppose it is the old thing of not missing something until it is gone, we all want the best petrol prices as sold by the supermarkets but then have regrets when the garage in an isolated area has closed due to lack of business. My project continues.

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