Nine more months for Deliveroo's ‘dark kitchens' in Swiss Cottage
Committee hears how drivers are arriving at the site every 35 seconds
Friday, 16th October 2020 — By Tom Foot
Delivery drivers exit onto the Finchley Road in Swiss Cottage
DELIVEROO has been given leave to continuing running its “dark kitchens” in Swiss Cottage for another nine months.
Planning chiefs approved the temporary extension after a long debate last night (Thursday).
Deliveroo rents kitchen space in the formerly disused site between Finchley Road and Dobson Close to food firms wanting to avoid high street rents.
The planning committee heard that 200,000 meals had been dispatched from the “Deliveroo Editions” site during a 14 month trial that was due to end on November 16.
The business has heaped misery on residents who complain of food smells, noise and poorly behaved drivers – who pick up food on average every 35 seconds from the kitchens that are open between 8am and 11pm.
They say there have been more than 400 breaches of planning conditions imposed on the business by an inspector last year.
Edie Raff, chairwoman of Cresta House Residents Association, told the committee there had been a “relentless negative impact on lives of local residents” and that “cooking smells invade our homes” despite “minor operational tweaks” by the company.
Deliveroo has been running so called “dark kitchens” in Swiss Cottage for three years despite never receiving full planning consent. After Camden took the set up to a planning inspector in 2019, a 14 month trial regulations were imposed on the way bikers collect and takeaway food from the kitchens. Electric bikes are now used rather than petrol-powered scooters.
The bikers – who are arriving every 35 seconds on average – have to cross the pavement to get down a ramp in Finchley Road opposite the Odeon cinema.
In a deputation, Swiss Cottage Cllr Leo Cassarani said: “Our objections are based on concrete facts rather than scaremongering. The nine dark kitchens are cramped into a tiny building surrounded by housing.
“We’re talking about a site when 200 times an hour someone is trying to get in and out, which requires cutting over the pavement. We need to put an end to the ordeal.”
He also raised concerns that the “meagre pay” of bikers are incentivised to go “as fast as they can”, adding: “Of course they will take short cuts.”
Giles Derrington, head of public affairs for Deliveroo UK, told the committee most objections had come from a small minority of residents and that the company had also delivered 700 meals to homes “within 100 metres of the site”.
He said: “We have ended the contracts of a few riders who consistently failed to follow the rules. We have regularly listened to their concerns. We have instituted patrols to move riders on, and if necessary take further action.
“The way the system is designed is not so our riders have to whizz in and rush. We pay riders a fee based on the time they need to deliver the food safely.”
Cllr Anna Wright has “huge sympathy with the riders”, adding: “They have to whizz in and out on very small pay. No amount of obligations, no amount of monitoring, is going to address this, when the underlying model makes it impossible for the drivers to comply. I can’t see how we are going to achieve anything.”
Cllr Andrew Parkinson said there was an issue of whether the company had the “capability for compliance”, adding: “We haven’t got enough evidence because of the coronavirus restrictions.”
Cllr Danny Beales suggested a site visit, adding: “There have been improvements, quite clearly, the use of pedal cycles to mopeds is welcome, the photos over time-lapse has improved, but I think there are still breaches. I don’t feel I have enough info to make a fully formed decision.”
Conservative party leader Cllr Oliver Cooper said: “What I want to know is what will happen differently over the next nine months? The trial over last three years has not worked.”
The committee agreed to give Deliveroo another nine months “on the basis we need more monitoring to see if this site is appropriate”.
Eight councillors voted in favour and four against.
Planning chairwoman Cllr Heather Johnson said “that was a difficult one, we’ll see it again in nine months I have no doubt”.