The new Fuel Vapour Recovery Stage II EU directive came into force on January 1, 2012, following consultations with local authorities and industry bodies, in particular RMI Petrol. Environment minister John Taylor confirmed that the new requirements would apply to all but the smallest new petrol stations from this year; to larger existing petrol stations from the end of 2018; and to most existing petrol stations that undergo any major refurbishments also from this year.

Around 25% of the largest existing petrol stations already meet the requirements of the new directive, which is aimed at ensuring recovered fuel vapour is converted back into petrol. Taylor also sought to reassure concerned retailers that fulfilling the requirements of the directive would not result in any site closures: "I know concerns have been raised about how the changes will impact on existing small petrol stations," he said.

"It has been mentioned, for example, that the changes might result in the closure of rural petrol stations. This will not be the case. The government fully recognises the social importance of smaller petrol stations and particularly those within rural communities. This is why I want to assure you that we don’t expect any existing petrol stations to have to close as a result of the changes.

"The new requirements will only apply to existing smaller petrol stations if they undergo a major refurbishment."

He said the guidance makes it very clear that a forecourt site will need to be comprehensively upgraded to trigger the need for the directive to be implemented.

"Partially replacing pipework or just replacing some petrol dispensers is very unlikely to be regarded as a major refurbishment," he stressed.