More than 1,000 rural forecourts have been thrown a lifeline following a government announcement on Stage IB vapour recovery.

Retailers selling less than 500,000 litres of fuel a year will be exempt from the legislation which comes into force at the end of 2004 as part of a European Directive. The legislation has been introduced in stages since 1998, with the higher throughput sites – one million litres-plus – having to comply first, and sites doing 500,000 to one million complying by December 2001. Sites doing less than 500,000 litres were given until the end of December 2004, but now the Government is drafting new legislation to say these sites will be exempt.

Bob Saunders, head of Downstream Oil Refining at the Department of Trade and Industry said: “We wanted to make it public now so that retailers would not begin to invest in expensive new equipment and then discover they

didn’t need it.

“We estimate around 1,000 sites will be affected and it will save them something like £4-5,000 each.” The announcement is a direct result of the Downstream Industry Forum in which all members of the industry are represented and have regular meetings with government officials. It set up a Rural Taskforce to look at rural issues, and identify the problems relating to

services to the motorist.

“By not having to fork out for Stage IB it will give retailers a better chance of survival,” said Saunders.

Mark Bradshaw, CEO of Garage Watch, which put forward a series of recommendations which prompted the setting up of the Taskforce, said it was excellent news. “Several retailers have said it will save them from closure.”