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Decision is due on ‘dystopian dark kitchen’

Residents logged hundreds of complaints but Deliveroo takeaway site could be here to stay

15 October, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Riders leaving the site

OBJECTORS to a Deliveroo “dark kitchen” operating next to a council estate say a trial period led to hundreds of complaints from neighbours.

Details of a raft of incidents at a food takeaway service described as “dystopian” by critics has been sent to planning councillors ahead of a crunch meeting.

Deliveroo Editions rents nine “micro kitchen pods” next to a formerly disused site in Dobson Close to restaurants with food being despatched by its riders from a ramp leading into Finchley Road.

Roofoods Ltd, representing the global food delivery firm, has now applied to make the service permanent with Camden’s planning committee due to make a decision tonight (Thursday).

Ward councillor Leo Cassarani, who has fought the Deliveroo operation since 2017, said: “There are huge margins for Deliveroo with minimal costs with this service, compared to what it makes through high street deliveries. At the same time you walk down Finchley Road and there are lots of empty restaurants. Deliveroo is monopolising business and stuffing it into these anonymous sites that you can’t visit in person.”

This set-up is why similar operations were given the nickname “dark kitchens”.

“You are even more alienated from the process of production of food than you were before,” said Cllr Cassarani. “What Deliveroo are doing is dystopian. If we grant this, this is the end of the road for campaigners. Or we can send a message that we stand with the community.”

Deliveroo operates its service between 8am and 11pm while a marshal monitors drivers on the ramp.

A strict regime is supposed to be in place since a planning inspector allowed the trial.

But in an objection Edie Raff, chairwoman of the Cresta House Residents Association, said: “Deliveroo demonstrated it was not able to meet a significant number of conditions in the operational management plan … By mid July 2020 ­residents had recorded 400+ violations.”

Complaints surrounded “cooking smell nuisance”, riders “cycling the wrong way on the road or cycling on the footpaths” and public urination.

Diana Pao, from Dobson Close, said Deliveroo had “disrespected the community”. There were two letters of support for the kitchens from a resident in Belsize Road and also a driver who said “if the site were to close it would have a huge financial impact on the riders”.

Deliveroo said it had found far fewer breaches than the residents had reported, adding: “The number dropped considerably during the latter dates, which again is a clear indication that the measures being used at the site are effective at controlling this once the rules are understood.”

A planning report said there had been breaches but officers are recommending that councillors give consent, adding that Deliveroo could run the site “without causing unacceptable harm”.

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