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Neighbours’ rage over Deliveroo’s ‘dark kitchen’

Planning row over site where meals are prepared for moped deliveries

19 March, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

Deliveroo business at Roman Way, off Caledonian Road

THE future of a so-called “dark kitchen” run by Deliveroo is to be decided next week, with neighbours complaining that it has caused them “stress, frustration and rage”.

The food delivery firm has made a “retrospective planning application” for an industrial site in Roman Way, off Caledonian Road, where it has been running a “Deliveroo Editions” business since 2017.

The “dark kitchen” site acts as a mass kitchen where several different restaurants and cafés can cook their meals and have their takeaways put together away from their dining customers. It means the businesses do not have to pay for expensive high street premises.

But residents in Offord Road, whose homes back onto the industrial site, have been infuriated by “24/7” extractor fans pumping fumes out of the kitchens and the constant coming and going of drivers on mopeds.

Deliveroo’s application has received 42 objections. Councillors on the Town Hall’s planning committee are due to reach a verdict on Monday evening.

In documents published ahead of the meeting, one objector said: “[The] appli­­cant cannot control delivery drivers when offsite as they are classed as self-employed. Anti-social behaviour has been experienced by residents associated with delivery drivers.”

They added: “Constant background noise during the majority of the day is having an impact on overall health, increasing levels of stress, frustration and rage, which is totally unacceptable.

“AC [air conditioning] units and fans are left on 24/7 when the unit is closed and causes issues with noise levels on the estate.”

Islington Council officers have recommended that planning permission is granted as long as Deliveroo ensures that only electric scooters or pushbikes are used for the takeaway service.

But representatives for the company say that it is not possible to commit to non-petrol-powered vehicles at Roman Way “due to the viability of their operations from the site”.

Instead, they have offered an e-vehicle subsidy scheme whereby the top 25 delivery drivers at the site would receive a discount on an electric vehicle.

The company has also proposed a community outreach and education programme, with Deliveroo committing to five fortnight-long work experience placements for Islington pupils at its London headquarters.

However, planning officers said in the documents: “This element of the proposal is not considered to be sufficient nor extensive enough to address the concerns raised relating to noise and disturbance from the use of petrol-powered scooters/mopeds. For these reasons, officers have not sought to secure the subsidy scheme as part of the recommendation.”

A Deliveroo spokeswoman said: “We know that people in Islington value the great food our restaurant partners at the site create and are confident in the benefits the site brings in terms of jobs and opportunities at a time when hospitality businesses across the country are struggling.

“Deliveroo is committed to being good neighbours to residents and we have engaged closely with the council throughout the planning process.

“We welcome the fact that the council’s planning officers have acknowledged that the planning application for the site should be approved.”

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