The UK Petrol Retailers Association has called for action over recent UK forecourt closures, after claiming that there are now less than 9,500 forecourts in the UK, including supermarket filling stations, which is the lowest number of filling stations in the region since 1912.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said that the situation could become critical if the total number of forecourts continues to drop at the rate it has during recent years. The association cited oil industry body Catalist’s figures, which state that 150 forecourts have closed this year already.

The PRA said that it believes that government involvement is critical to save the nation’s fuel stations, adding that local authorities must extend their support for forecourt retailers by providing business rate relief to allow for maintenance.

Ray Holloway, director of the PRA, commented: Motorists are now noticing gaps in fuel availability, and if it gets worse as expected, they will certainly be inconvenienced when searching for a forecourt in some areas. Mr Holloway added that the closures are occurring in busy urban areas, as well as in less populated rural regions.

Oil company outlets are being closed as fast as independents are forced out of business. Strong supermarket outlet growth since the 1990s and resulting squeeze on margin has made motor fuel retailing a very unprofitable business, Mr Holloway revealed.

The Scottish Executive has a grants scheme available to assist forecourt retailers in Scotland with capital investment. The idea is to preserve businesses, and contribute to the continuation of fuel availability in all areas. Westminster must consider a similar scheme for England and Wales, Mr Holloway concluded.