What is this campaign about?
In December 2019 we learned, through a planning consultation document posted through Yerbury Primary School’s letter box – that Ocado were planning to convert an empty warehouse behind the school into a 24/7 distribution depot.
The planning application was for the installation of lights, CCTV security cameras and three diesel petrol pumps to refill a fleet of 100 Ocado vans.
The plans also showed car parking spaces for 100 Ocado vans, nearly 100 staff vehicles plus HGV access roads and loading bays. The images below shows how this would look with hundreds of vehicle movements along the edge of the playground and the constant noise of vehicles, trailers being loaded and unloaded, staff coming on and off shift through the day and night.
How did this situation arise?
Ocado said in a public meeting at Yerbury Primary School in January that they’ve had their eye on this site for 10 years. But rather than consult with the community or even with the school, Ocado and their landlord Telereal have used loopholes in planning law to slip onto the site as quietly as possible.
In April 2019 Telereal, the landlord, applied to Islington Council for something called a ‘Certificate of Lawful Development’ for Storage and Distribution status for this warehouse and land. Telereal contended in that application that the site ‘had always’ been used for storage and distribution and thus were merely seekign confirmation of this status from the council.
Lawful development certificates, unlike normal planning applications, do not require any consultation with the community. Ocado and Telereal knew this. Indeed, Ocado’s name does not even appear on this application and the application did not specify what ‘storage and distribution’ activities were intended for the site.
The law around Lawful Development Certificates states that the onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient proof about the status of the land and that the local planning authority is expected to approve the application on the ‘balance of probability’ that the applicant’s information is correct. The law therefore is tiled in favour of the applicant and in favour of granting applications.
Islington Council granted Telereal a lawful development certificate in April 2019.
At the public meeting in January 2020 Ocado’s General Counsel stated that, having obtained the rights for storage distribution activities on the land that Ocado could ‘open up tomorrow’ if they wanted.
Through January and February members of the local community thoroughly researched the history of the site and in April, after seeking legal advice, submitted a 100 page pack of evidence refuting Telereal’s version of events on the site.
This is summarised in this newspaper article: http://islingtontribune.com/article/ocados-plans-for-delivery-hub-next-to-primary-school-dealt-a-blow-by-councils-legal-team
COVID-19 has demonstrated the ‘fifth emergency service’ value of on-line shopping. Why put up barriers to progress?
We all understand the importance of food distribution, indeed our community and members of our campaign includes people who have been shielding.
This campaign is about the unsuitability of this site, just metres from a nursery and primary school and surrounded by housing, for an intensive 24hr delivery operation.