Residents living close to a site where retail giant Ocado wants to develop a storage and distribution centre have told a court of their fears for the health and wellbeing of the children attending a nearby primary school amid pollution concerns.
Schoolchildren gathered outside the High Court on Wednesday to demonstrate ahead of a bid by the online supermarket to overturn a council’s decision to revoke a certificate for the facility in a residential area of north London.
Ocado is taking legal action against Islington Council over its reversal of approval for use of the site at Bush Industrial Estate in Tufnell Park.
Pupils from Yerbury Primary stood outside the Royal Courts of Justice before the case, chanting “Hey, Ocado, leave our school alone” while holding placards reading “No noise, no pollution, no Ocado” and “Education over Convenience”.
In 2019 the council granted property company Telereal Trillium Ltd (TT) a certificate of lawful development for the site and the court heard that Ocado went into a lease agreement for the units that year having “relied upon the certificate as conclusive evidence that its intended use of the premises was lawful”.
But the council said “false information” had been provided by TT and “material information (was) withheld” with regard to the nature and extent of the plan and the nature of the use and occupation between 1992 and 2019.
The local authority said the “totality of the picture painted was of a single planning unit, occupied throughout as such” and that “each part of that factual analysis was central to the application and was flawed”.
Locals known as the Concerned Residents of Tufnell Park oppose use of the units “by anyone in an unrestricted manner”.
In a court document they cited concerns about the “inevitable effects of the resulting development, particularly the impacts of (most critically) engine fumes but also of noise, light, other forms of pollution and traffic intensification, residential amenity, and on the health and wellbeing of the 450 primary school children who attend Yerbury Primary School”.
Yerbury headteacher Cassie Moss said the site is opposite the school “literally along the whole length of our playground”.
Speaking outside court ahead of the hearing, she said: “It’s about health, it’s about pollution, it’s about air quality and it’s also about noise pollution.
“We’re a 120-year-old building and our classrooms look directly over the site.”
She said there had been “so much work” done in recent years to improve air quality around the school and the outdoor environment for the children.
“If Ocado come in, in one swoop all of that work is undone.”
The hearing is expected to last a day and a half.
An Ocado spokesperson said: “Ocado is committed to making our site on the Bush Industrial Estate the greenest and quietest grocery facility in the UK, with a 100% electric van fleet.
“We delivered to one in six households in Islington in 2020. Had our proposed site been open then, it would also have reduced the number of miles travelled by our fleet by over 45% for customers in the Borough.
“Our aim is to be the best possible neighbour to the local community, whilst bringing a faster and more sustainable service to our Islington customers.”