The government is being urged to take action and inject public funds into struggling forecourts. The Petrol Retail Association (PRA) is calling on Westminster to consider a grant scheme similar to one already operating in Scotland. The plea comes in light of the latest figures from forecourt network specialist Catalist, which shows that by the end of 2007, there will be just 9,300 forecourts left in the UK

- fewer than in 1912. PRA director Ray Holloway says MPs must sit up and take notice - before it is too late. "The government must get involved. We need it to acknowledge the problem and address it before we lose these vital services," he said. "The idea of the Scottish Executive has been to preserve smaller businesses and contribute to the continuation of fuel availability in all areas.

"Scotland has proved it’s possible to preserve businesses which periodically need capital investment. So why isn’t a similar scheme available here?" Scotland introduced the Rural Petrol Stations Grant Scheme (RPSGS) in 1998 as part of the Rural Transport Fund. An estimated 60 retailers have taken advantage of the grants, which can help fund work such as fuel tank replacements.

Holloway is calling on Westminster to introduce a similar project in England and Wales, saying at least 100 retailers would be eligible if the same criteria were used. He also wants funds extended to urban areas. The PRA is considering lobbying the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the issue.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the PRA is pressing for the existing grant scheme to be upgraded. Holloway wants the Scottish Executive to subsidise retailers’ incomes when they start using the scheme. It could be a long battle but one worth fighting for. "I won’t give up on this one," he added.