Charging ahead: Navigating legal hurdles for green infrastructure

The roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure is gathering pace to meet increasing demands
The roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure is gathering pace to meet increasing demands

SIGNIFICANT infrastructure investment is essential for Northern Ireland to achieve its goal of net zero and decarbonisation

Professionals working across the built environment sector must be mindful of the legal considerations when planning the installation of "green" infrastructure and should ensure that appropriate legal advice is sought at an early stage.

The roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure is gathering pace to meet increasing demands. To instil confidence in electric vehicle users, it's imperative that such infrastructure is seamlessly integrated along our main service roads, at out of town retail parks, shopping centres, hotels, forecourts, workplaces and in public and private car parks.

Many commercial property occupiers are eager to embrace this eco-conscious practice, not only to responsibly promote sustainable transport to their premises, but also because they recognise that it makes good commercial sense to provide added value for their customers, visitors and staff by providing EV charging points on-site.

Charging infrastructure may be installed where the land is leased or owned directly by the charging point owner or by the charging point owner under a license arrangement on land owned or leased by third parties (e.g. in supermarket car parks or service stations).

Property law issues in Northern Ireland are not always straightforward and land owners, tenants and those installing or operating charging infrastructure should understand the nature of the title at the outset of any transaction and who needs to be involved in any arrangements.

When dealing with leaseholds, landlord consent may be required for alterations, depending on the terms of the lease. If the charge point will sit outside the extent of the leased premises, additional rights for access and maintenance may be required together with an obligation to repair.

Other leasehold complexities include the need for clarity on who is responsible for possible reinstatement at the end of the term, applicability of rent review, service charge, security of tenure and insurance. Whether a lease or licence is used is a key consideration.

Whether opting for a license or entering into a lease agreement, it's important for all parties involved to carefully craft the terms to accommodate future developments. As technology develops, existing charging installations may need retrofitting and documentation will need to allow it.

Wayleaves and easements for the construction and installation of electricity cabling and substations may also be required.

For developers taking on the responsibility of installing such infrastructure, they should consider the potential cost of obtaining relevant easements, wayleaves and access rights early. When acting for developers it is important to recognise that they may want to combine charging points with other technologies to maximise revenue opportunities, for example, by co-locating with solar panels or battery storage facilities.

In addition to financial aspects, developers should also factor in planning considerations. While there are established development rights for electric vehicle charging points in public and private car parks, securing planning permission may be necessary for charging points in other locations.

Although it is also likely that more green requirements will be required by councils when granting planning permission. It is also important to think carefully about the placement of EV charging stations, particularly if within basement car parks and any insurance responsibilities should be clearly set out.

:: Julie Galbraith ( is DWF Law's office managing partner in Belfast and head of real estate