The independent London newspaper

Do the right thing, headteacher tells Ocado

Building work at delivery giant’s proposed hub close to primary school gathers pace

10 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Parents and pupils protest against Ocado’s plans for Bush Industrial Estate in Upper Holloway

A HEADTEACHER has urged Ocado to scrap its bid to build a distribution and refuelling centre next to her primary school’s playground, as construction work on the site begins to gather pace.

The food delivery giant has come under fire after submitting plans to build the depot just metres away from Yerbury Primary School on the Bush Industrial Estate in Upper Holloway.

Speaking to the Tribune, Yerbury headteacher Cassie Moss said: “The local community and parents are really concerned and unhappy about the application, and the process which has led to this.

“I hope Ocado will to the right thing by the community, children and their own reputation by retracting their application.”

Parents and pupils held a protest at the site shortly before Christmas over the proposals which would see a diesel tank and three fuel pumps installed on the new site.

The application, which was first put forward in September last year, fails to mention the school, nearby community park and a site of local ecological importance – all of which border the site.

It is understood Yerbury were not made aware of the full scale of the plans until construction started in early December, when the noise disrupted classes.

After a meeting between the school and project managers, dust protection and noise-reduction screens were erected.

A more detailed plan was submitted by Ocado on December 3. This was uploaded to the council website two days later, and was only seen by the school on December 12 – leaving parents and teachers with just five days to lodge objections leading up to the Christmas break.

A picture of building work inside the proposed site posted online by Pexhurst

Ocado has since met with the school and apologised for any anxiety the plans have caused.

The consultation period has also been extended to January 26.

Meanwhile, scaffolding has been erected and contractor Pexhurst has continued working on the site.

In December, Pexhurst tweeted a picture of construction work inside a warehouse on the site, with a caption saying they were working “for our clients, Ocado”. The tweet has since been deleted.

The news was also shared on the Pexhurst website, but has since been amended. It now reads that the work is being carried out “on behalf of client Telereal Trillium”.

Ocado declined to comment when asked about the online picture.

Telereal has owned the site since 2013, and it is understood Ocado has signed a lease with them.

Under permitted development laws, Telereal can make certain changes to the site without planning permission.

Another concern for the school is how any building work will affect a boundary wall bordering the playground.

The school has made efforts to liaise with Telereal on this issue.

Parent Andrew Grieve, who is an air quality analyst at King’s College London, has penned an open letter to Ocado chief Tim Steiner asking him to withdraw the plans.

Signatories to the letter include respiratory experts Jonathan Grigg, from Queen Mary University, and Dr Ian Mudway from King’s College.

Mr Grieve told the Tribune: “The WHO [World Health Organisation] has classified diesel exhausts as a class 1 carcinogen. These fumes cause cancer.

“Every single parent that demonstrated in front of the school is worried. Any parent would be worried about it.”

Council records show Telereal Trillium leased the units to Royal Mail from 2003 to 2017, and they have been empty since then.

A storage and distribution classification was confirmed by Islington Council in April last year.

Both Pexhurst and Telereal were contacted for comment.


(Read the open letter written to Ocado chief Tim Steiner below)

Open Letter to Ocado

Dear Mr Steiner,

We are writing to express our opposition to Ocado Group’s proposals to build a new distribution depot just metres from our school playground on air pollution, noise and safety grounds.

As parents, the protection of our children’s health is our highest duty and since they have no voice in the planning process we must advocate for them.

Air Pollution – The combination of diesel Ocado delivery vans, staff cars, diesel HGVs for stock deliveries and three diesel fuel pumps just metres from the playground poses a serious threat to our children’s health. The World Health Organisation has classified both diesel exhaust and benzene from fuel pumps as Class 1 carcinogens – known to cause cancer in humans.

In the case of diesel exhaust, a known cause of lung cancer. A large body of evidence also exists showing a link between air pollution and smaller lungs, cardiovascular and even developmental problems in children.

Noise – The vehicle movements and noise associated with staff coming on and off shift, Ocado vans and HGV trailer deliveries loading and unloading and the refueling of Ocado vans and the diesel tanks just metres from the classrooms will create significant noise during the day while children are trying to learn.

Added to this, the proposals include chiller units and a diesel generator which will further increase noise and disturbance. The school has already had to ask your contractors currently on the site to stop as noise levels in the classrooms were disrupting lessons.

Safety – Lastly, we note with deep concern that two Ocado distribution depots had major fires in the last year with one fire requiring the evacuation of residents over fears of a “toxic release or large cylinder explosion”.

These fires raise serious questions about Ocado’s safety record and of the wisdom of locating facilities of this type near children. Yerbury Primary School is home to nearly five hundred children from ages three to eleven.

It is they who will live with the pollution and noise from your depot for years to come.


Please Tim, don’t put this depot by our school.



Concerned Parents & Guardians of Yerbury Primary



Dr Bob Klaber OBE, Yerbury Parent & Consultant General Paediatrician, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Professor Stephen Holgate CBE, MRC Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology, University of Southampton

Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Chris Griffiths, Professor of Primary Care, Director (Acting), Institute of Population Health Sciences, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Martin Williams, Head of Air Quality Science Policy and Epidemiology, King’s College London

Dr Ian Mudway, Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology, King’s College London

Laura Heath, co-chair Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Mark Benson, co-chair Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Imogen Chopra, Secretary, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Sarah Ferguson, co-treasurer, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Mark Turner, co-treasurer, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Mel Edrich, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Tina Poyser, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Dr Rosemary Marsh, Chair of Governors

Fenalla Bolton, Parent Governor

Victoria Lemmon, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association

Holly Hughes, Yerbury Parent Teacher Association




Share this story

Post a comment