Ocado showed its staggering cynicism

Friday, 7th February 2020

Neill Abrams from Ocado

Ocado’s Neill Abrams gives a presentation at the public meeting

• IT’S ironic that you chose to open your report on the public meeting on the proposed Ocado depot in Tufnell Park with the notion of “rebuilding trust”, (Ocado bosses face opponents of Archway delivery depot, January 31).

It was evident from the start of this heated confrontation, between three top Ocado representatives and 150 or so irate neighbours to the scheme, that there was little trust in Ocado from the outset.

The proposed depot on the tiny Bush Industrial Estate carries grave implications for the area in respect of air pollution, noise nuisance and traffic congestion.

Yet Ocado’s representatives admitted they had been slow in revealing their intentions to the local community and, indeed, to Islington Council. “Transparency”, a word that was bandied about a great deal over the evening seems to have been negligible on Ocado’s part.

As a PR exercise by Ocado, designed to allay local residents’ fears, the event was a disaster. There was a staggering cynicism in Ocado’s approach which appeared to boil down to: this is happening whether you like it or not, we’ve already got the planning permission and you’re fortunate to be dealing with a “responsible” company.

The meaning of the word “responsible” was severely stretched, as it became apparent that the initial planning permission was squeezed through by withholding information and exploiting a succession of planning loopholes.

Much has been made of Ocado’s stated intention to employ electric rather than diesel vehicles. Yet it was far from evident that they have either the commitment or the capacity to deliver this.

Diesel pollution is, in fact, only one aspect of this whole debacle; though a very important one. Hundreds of vehicles coming and going at all times of day and night will cause massive disruption to people living near the site.

Traffic congestion will be horrendous and dangerous, though it was evident that the Ocado representatives had little knowledge of the layout of the surrounding roads. Their Zoom rapid-delivery service – which this depot is designed to facilitate – is ecologically unsustainable.

This overscaled development is totally unsuited to the tiny Bush Industrial Estate. Ocado’s best option is to pull out now.

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