Ocado’s one-hour Zoom delivery strategy has suffered a setback with a High Court ruling against its plans for a distribution centre next to a primary school in north London.
The online grocer had wanted to open a fulfilment centre close to Yerbury Primary School in Tuffnell Park for its speedy delivery service. Yesterday its case to challenge Islington Council’s reversal of planning approval for the site, which is located on the Bush Industrial Estate and leased from landlord Telereal Trillium, was dismissed in the High Court by Mr Justice Holgate.
Ocado says the site would have been its greenest and quietest in the UK.
An Ocado spokesperson says: “We are disappointed with today’s judgement. Our proposals for the Bush Industrial Estate are to build the greenest and quietest grocery facility in the UK with a 100% electric van fleet.”
But the campaigning Nocado group, which includes parents of children at the school and opposed the plans on air pollution grounds, describes that as “disingenuous” and “greenwash". It says: “While Ocado dropped their initial plans for operating three diesel refueling pumps at the depot, their claims to electrify the site are neither viable nor enforceable. Only 1% of Ocado’s total delivery fleet is currently electric, a pitiful 17 vans nationwide, and CEO Tim Steiner, has publicly stated short-term and long-term challenges including issues with capacity and scalability.”
Natasha Cox, campaigner and parent at the school, says: “Today is a landmark victory for common sense and the rights of communities. The verdict of Mr Justice Holgate sets a rightful precedent for prioritising children’s health over the growth of online deliveries. There is a place for distribution centres but it is not a skipping rope away from primary school classrooms.”
And Cassie Moss, headteacher of Yerbury Primary School, says: “The children, parents and residents in the community are delighted with [the] High Court judgment which vindicates the Council’s decision to stop Ocado opening an unlawful depot next to our primary school.
“Ocado can make as many attempts to greenwash the community as they like but ultimately this type of facility has no place next to schools and homes. As the children have said all along, Ocado can find another site, we can’t find another school.”
Islington Council says in a statement on Twitter: “The High Court has today dismissed Ocado’s claim for judicial review of Islington Council’s revocation of a lawful development certificate for a site on Bush Industrial Estate. We are pleased with today’s decision and will now examine the judgment in detail.”
The Tuffnell Park site was part of Ocado strategy for its one-hour Zoom delivery service, designed to enable deliveries of goods from a range of more than 10,000 lines to shoppers within 60 minutes or at a specified time, with a minimum £15 spend. In February it said that it aims to have a further 12 micro-fulfilment centres within London, in addition to its first site, which located in West London. Now it says it will continue its search for a site in the north London council area.
The Ocado spokesperson adds: “We remain committed to the Islington community, where we delivered to one in six households in 2020, and will continue to look at how we can deliver a better service to the borough and significantly reduce our emissions.”
Ocado is a Leading retailer in RXUK Top500 research.