The PRA has welcomed moves by the Treasury to extend the rural fuel rebate scheme.

The Treasury has announced that it plans to seek permission from the European Commission to extend the scheme, which currently provides a 5 pence per litre (ppl) rebate to retailers in the Scilly Isles, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Northern Isles and the Islands of the Clyde.

The PRA believes the scheme could provide important financial relief to hard pressed motorists in outlying areas who are forced to drive further and further to fill up as closures of independent petrol forecourts continue. It will also help financially stressed retailers to sustain their businesses and help local communities.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented: “There are now just 1,640 rural filling stations across the UK and almost all of these are independently owned and operated by families local to the area. As a consequence, the PRA has been in close contact with the chief secretary and Treasury officials prior to the establishment of the present scheme and more recently with plans to try and extend the scheme.

“This is a fantastic initiative which the PRA welcomes wholeheartedly and would encourage all independent retailers in the areas detailed to respond to the ‘call for evidence’ both quickly and constructively to aid HM Treasury in their discussions with the EU Commission.”

Retailers can contact the PRA if they have any concerns or queries about this ‘call’.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said nearly 1,500 retailers in 36 counties and districts in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are being consulted about how much they charge for petrol and diesel.

He explained: “The island fuel rebate provides much needed help to keep down fuel prices in areas where costs of transporting fuel mean prices are much higher. I know that there are other remote rural areas of the UK with similarly high fuel costs.

“So we are today starting to gather further evidence that will form part of an application to the Commission to extend the island fuel duty discount scheme to very remote rural areas.

“We will need to prove that there are areas which are similar to the islands in terms of pump prices and distribution costs, so I would urge local areas that may qualify to provide the information we need to make the case as robust as possible.”

The government aims to submit an application and evidence base in support of the scheme expansion over the autumn.

Madderson added “We have been pressing Government to take robust action to protect the energy resilience for road transport fuels and this is just one of the potential measures that we hoped to see tabled.

“The PRA will continue to liaise with the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) on other important measures to support our fragile refuelling network.”