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Food depot row victory for ‘Nocado’ campaigners

High Court rules against delivery giant’s plans for site near primary school

11 June, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Yerbury Primary School pupils protest with placards outside the High Court

CAMPAIGNERS who have fought an online delivery giant’s plan to build a distribution centre next to a primary school are celebrating victory in the High Court.

Ocado had asked for Islington Council’s refusal to allow it to operate a depot from the Bush Industrial Estate in Tufnell Park – near Yerbury Primary School – to be overturned.

But a ruling by Mr Justice Holgate said there was nothing wrong with the Town Hall’s stance and “no certificate of lawfulness” for the site to be used in such a way.

Parents and the school’s staff had argued for almost three years that the construction of Ocado’s distribution centre and an influx of lorries would be detrimental to the children and infringe on their right to clean air.

The company has so far not commented on whether it will launch further appeals but said it was “disappointed” with the outcome.

Islington had revoked a licence for the site claiming there had not been clear information about what it would be used for.

Ocado previously said one in six households in the borough is among its customers and the depot could improve the service.

It had originally planned for a diesel generator, fuel pumps and tanks for vehicles, which campaigners said would exacerbate pollution levels. Ocado later said it would only use electric vans, but this failed to convince those opposed to the proposals.

Yerbury parents, pupils and staff made their feelings clear outside the High Court during the case which has ended in victory in their battle against a new depot

Ward councillor Sheila Chapman said: “We have stood with the local community to oppose Ocado’s delivery hub in Tufnell Park.

“The 24-hour-a-day depot right next to the playground of Yerbury Primary School and Whittington Park nature reserve would increase traffic, air and noise pollution at a time where we need to tackle the climate emergency.”

She added: “We are delighted that the High Court has dismissed Ocado’s judicial review application and hope that Ocado now genuinely works with the local community rather than looking for loopholes to bypass scrutiny.”

Children from Yerbury had stood with placards outside the High Court during the hearing last month.

Natasha Cox, a Yerbury parent and part of the “Nocado” campaign, said: “This 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 irresponsible growth of online deliveries.

“There is a place for distribution centres but it is not a skipping rope away from primary school classrooms.”

In 2019 the council had granted property company Telereal Trillium a lawful development certificate for the site, but it argued the company had withheld information over the nature of the plans for the depot.

Mr Justice Holgate said in a written ruling: “Public confidence in certificates of lawfulness of an existing use or development must extend to the reliability of the information put forward by an applicant to support the grant of a certificate.”

Yerbury headteacher Cassie Moss said she was “delighted” with the ruling, adding: “Ocado can make as many attempts to greenwash 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.”

Andrew Grieve, a campaigner who is an air pollution scientist at Imperial College London, said: “A company that is prepared to pollute children in their playground and drag parents and residents through the court to do it has no place in ours or any other community.

“We hope this judgment sets a precedent in putting public health above corporate interests, given the weight of evidence showing the impact of air pollution on children’s physical and cognitive development.”

A spokesperson for the Ocado group said: “We are disappointed with today’s judgment.

“Our proposals for the Bush Industrial Estate are to build the greenest and quietest grocery facility in the UK with a 10 per cent electric van fleet.

“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.”

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