Ocado bosses face opponents of Archway delivery depot
You need to rebuild trust, say protesters fighting development plan near school
31 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson
Ocado’s Neill Abrams gives a presentation
FOOD delivery giant Ocado has been found lacking in its quest to build a diesel-powered delivery hub next door to a primary school.
The company has applied for planning permission to add diesel pumps to its diesel pumps in Bush Industrial Estate, Archway.
The site could serve up to 100 delivery vans in two daily rotations, as well as a “Zoom” service offering deliveries within 60 minutes, and bring 300 jobs to the area.
As the Tribune revealed, last week Ocado offered to explore the possibility of using a 100 per cent electric delivery fleet, amid concerns about increased traffic fumes near Yerbury Primary School.
But the company last night (Thursday) admitted it could not guarantee when, or even if, this would happen.
To enable the full electrification of deliveries from the site, Ocado claim they need the permission and support of both Islington Council and UK Power Network.
The online delivery company faced dozens of Yerbury’s parents and residents at a public meeting held at the school on Tuesday night, where it was told it had lost the trust of the community.
“I think most of the people in this room will confirm that your transparency on this has been appalling,” said one resident living in Foxton Road.
“So you need to rebuild trust by being much more transparent, and you need to make clear commitments about noise, pollution and the times you’re going to be running this site, because at the moment most of us are not convinced you’ll do it in a transparent, responsible or green way.”
Another said: “You could easily, as Ocado, have let people know, but you didn’t. You chose not to, you chose to do it as quietly as possible.”
Ocado surprised many at the meeting with the new revelation that it was considering building a “green wall” to soak up emissions along the border with the school.
Yerbury headteacher Cassie Moss said this announcement was indicative of the lack of communication from the company with its prospective neighbours.
She added Ocado bosses had previously told her it was impossible to build an electric fleet for the site, before telling the council the opposite.
Responding to similar complaints, Ocado general counsel Neill Abrams apologised but added the company had complied with planning regulations.
“This is a site that already has full distribution planing consent,” he said. “We were applying for CCTV and lighting. It’s about as minor a planning application as you can make.
“If we can’t satisfy the council that our use of the diesel is reasonable, we will withdraw it. We don’t need the diesel.”
Council leader Labour councillor Richard Watts later rebuffed this suggestion at the meeting, and said Ocado had a statutory duty to the council but “ moral obligations” to the Archway community.
A protest against the depot last week
“I’ve been the council leader for a number of years. I’m constantly surprised by the way developers can use loopholes in the planning system to get what they want,” he added.
Addressing the meeting, Islington’s director of planning and development, Karen Sullivan, later said the company had “chopped up” the planning application into a series of small adjustments for the council to decipher.
“I apologise that this is messy, but I think that is a factor of the way in which Ocado has dealt with the planning system,” said Ms Sullivan. “I would say that I don’t think the way that Ocado have dealt with getting permission for the development is very transparent.
Ms Sullivan added: “What we need to do now is work through it with Ocado to understand what is in the planning application and what they are applying for.”
The meeting was told that more than 1,000 comments had been already received by Islington on the application since it was submitted. Ms Sullivan said the plans would be put back out to consultation once Ocado had provided the answers sought by the council’s planning officers
Ocado also revealed at the meeting they had fought off competition from Amazon to secure the site, which they have been interested in leasing for the past decade.
Mr Abrams told the meeting: “This is land that’s going to be used by somebody. If it’s not us it’s going to be somebody else. I know that this site will be busier than having nobody next door. But having nobody next door is not a real-world aspiration.”
He added: “I can assure you that Ocado is going to be a caring and collaborative neighbour.”