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Deliveroo stops use of ‘dark kitchen’ mopeds in bid to stay in Swiss Cottage

Residents object to food takeaway operation close to their homes

12 July, 2019 — By Tom Foot

DELIVEROO has banned mopeds and scooters from its “dark kitchen” in Swiss Cottage as part of a last-ditch plea to continue trading.

The firm, through its parent company Roofoods Ltd, has submitted a “retrospective” planning application to the Town Hall for its “Editions” service between residential homes in Finchley Road and Dobson Close.

It says that food outlets using the kitchens for takeaway delivery service will be transported by bicycles, e-bikes and electronic scooters.

The move follows a series of complaints from residents about chaotic scenes of drivers collecting orders throughout the day – at peak hours there are 194 trips in and out of the site – and ahead of a public inquiry scheduled for July 30.

The council, which has appointed a barrister to fight the case, served Deliveroo with an “enforcement notice” last year arguing the company has broken planning laws and must shut down.

Swiss Cottage councillor Leo Cassarrani, who has been campaigning against Deliveroo, said: “This is Deliveroo’s attempt to stop the inquiry by saying they can ameliorate all the things people have been complaining about. But it has not worked and the appeal is going ahead, the planning inspector has confirmed that. Residents have lived for nearly two years next to this and they say it’s about time Deliveroo stopped playing games. I am sure it is more healthy to have bikes, but the main concern has never been pollution.”

Deliveroo’s nine kitchens were installed in a disused building next to residential homes in Cresta House in 2017.

Deliveroo claims it does not need planning permission for a change of use to run its commercial business there.

The set-up has been called a “dark kitchen” because food is prepared in temporary facilities in car parks, disused buildings or shipping containers rather than high street takeaways with walk-in customers. Businesses rent kitchen space from Deliveroo, which then collects orders made online.

Moped drivers have been collecting orders from the Swiss Cottage kitchens in the building from noon until 10.45pm – although food is being prepared from 8am. Deliveroo said in its application that it had “actively worked with the council and local residents to improve the management of the site and the operation of plant equipment.

Objections to the new planning application have already been filed at the Town Hall, including one Swiss Cottage resident Gail Levy, who said drivers can be “quite intimidating in their numbers”.

Another resident, Gemma Fumagalli, said in her objection: “Even if they use bicycles, pedestrians will continue to be at risk of their constant pavement mounting and drivers ‘hanging around’ for hours on end. We already have a big problem on Belsize Road with e-bikes being abandoned and cannot imagine how much worse this will get if Deliveroo riders finish a shift and abandon their bikes.”

Francoise Findlay, who chairs Elsworthy Residents Association, said: “The time constraints imposed on deliveries will still mean that bikes launch out from the ramp, between the traffic lanes, the buses and cars, taking dangerous risks and frightening drivers.”

A Deliveroo statement said: “Deliveroo is committed to being a good neighbour and working closely with councillors and local residents. Following resident feedback we have made numerous changes to our operations at Swiss Cottage Editions, such as dedicated traffic marshals and traffic restrictions.”

It adde: ‘Most recently we have introduced changes so that orders from the site will only be offered to riders using either a bicycle or an electric vehicle. Not only is this more environmentally friendly and quieter, it will further help to prevent congestion at the site.”

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