The PRA has been praised by the Blackburn-based Top 50 independent, the Kay Group Ltd, following the enforced closure of one of its car wash operations by the local Environmental Health Officer.
Paul Blackmore, The Kay Group’s non-executive chairman, said the company greatly appreciated Brian Madderson’s intervention when it had been served a Prohibition Notice against the use of its jet wash facilities.
“Calderdale Council’s EHO tried to contact head office first, but left a message to let us know she would be attending the Pellon Lane, Halifax site to place a Prohibition Order on our jet washing activity,” Paul explained.
“I called the site manager and the EHO was already on site with an enforcement officer to serve the notice.
“We had circulated to all sites, Brian’s communication from the Department for Business, Energy and Business Strategy (BEIS), and our considered distancing compliance, as the jet washes are screened, all accept coins or contactless payment and customers can use the fuel gloves.
“This was shown to the EHO, who was very polite, but firm, stating that customers were making the trip solely to use the jet washing and therefore an unnecessary trip and the reason for the Order
“I asked the EHO if their consideration and authority was above the Government’s BEIS department, and if found to be wrong would we be entitled to compensation? The EHO was from their response determined to enforce the order which we immediately complied with.
“The whole conversation/debate was in a very controlled, determined but civil manner by the both of us.
“I contacted Brian to advise him of the situation with a copy of the order and our site communication and after few exchanges of emails and surveys of competitors washing activities. Brian quickly offered up his services to deal direct with the EHO on our behalf after taking QC’s advice, and in virtually 24hrs the order was lifted - much to our surprise but great appreciation of Brian’s intervention. We all at the Kay Group expected more of a tussle with the EHO.”
Madderson said a draft letter to assist forecourt retailers argue against closure of their car wash facilities by local authorities or police has been made available on the PRA website, and confirmed that it had already been successfully used on behalf of the Kay Group to challenge a Prohibition Notice enforced by the Local Council in Halifax against the use of the jet wash facilities on a petrol station.
“The Council immediately rescinded this Notice after taking their own legal advice regarding our letter,” he said. “We are working with both the National Police and the Local Government Association in England to ensure that their COVID-19 Guidance Notes are fit for purpose.”
The PRA’s letter is called the Draft Template letter regarding the status of goods and services provided by a petrol station under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and can be found in the members’ section of the PRA’s website under ‘Representing your interests’ Coronavirus update.
In the communications with Calderdale Council, Madderson explained that: “It may be that travelling to a petrol station solely to obtain a car wash would not be deemed a necessity and so that person may be breaching the Regulations. However, I am not aware of any restrictions within the Regulations as to what goods or services a petrol station that may remain open can provide: it is the business that is assessed as essential, NOT the particular goods and services it provides.
“I also take this opportunity to observe that as the car washing facilities are automated, these are being provided in line with social distancing requirements and there is minimal risk of infection to the customers.”
Madderson also reiterated the guidelines established by the Car Wash Association (of which he is also chairman), that had been approved with the BEIS as follows:
1) Automatic Car Washes (ACW) by definition do not involve the use of forecourt staff (other than very occasionally for refilling chemicals etc when the equipment is isolated) or when paying which may also involve fuel and/or shop goods if there is no card payment facility available.
2) The operation of rollover car washes requires the driver/passengers to remain seated in the car so no contact with other persons.
3) The operation of jet washes involves the customer using handheld equipment which is situated in separate covered or open bay area so 2m distancing easily maintained.
4) Any form of auto or manual valeting afterwards eg use of vacuum, hand drying etc should cease due to potential distancing difficulty.
5) Hand car washes (HCW) by definition involves significant number of persons (usually four to six per vehicle if valeting included) whether undertaken by own staff of third party and therefore should not be undertaken on any site.
The BEIS has stressed that keeping car washes open is a decision for forecourt operators to take, with consideration to whether these operations can continue in line with Government guidance on social distancing and limiting the spread of infection; but if Public Health England (PHE) guidelines aren’t being met, then local authorities will be able to enforce closure. “Our preference is that forecourt operators focus their staff on operating essential food and fuel services.”