ilm and theatre star Frances de la Tour has joined the fight against plans for an Ocado depot three metres from a north London school.
The three-time Olivier Award winner said the online supermarket’s scheme to build a distribution hub next to Yerbury Primary School in Tufnell Park was “absolutely terrible”, and that she would rather see the land used for social housing.
Ocado has been battling for permission to build the 24/7 facility since 2019 – and was told by Islington Council earlier this year, for the third time, that it could not go ahead with it.
The retailer has now launched an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate to try and get the council’s refusal overturned, but a group of local parents, children and residents, known as the NOcado campaign, are raising funds for legal representation in that appeal.
Ms De la Tour, who has been a local resident for more than 30 years and has a grandchild at the school, urged support for their fundraising efforts, saying: “It affects everybody, the whole neighbourhood…
“It has such a knock-on effect for so many other situations like this, where there’s a space like this… next to houses or schools, which should be used for social housing – but instead it’s these superstores.”
The actor – known for her roles in TV sitcom Rising Damp, Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, and the Harry Potter film franchise – warned that the project would involve a continual stream of vans driving “night and day”.
Ocado has said it “would commit to using a 100 per cent electric van fleet”, but Ms De la Tour said the proposal would still be disruptive to the community.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s electric vehicles,” she said.
“It’s noise, it’s car doors shutting, it’s people – and right in the middle of an incredibly close-knit [area]… It would be absolutely terrible.”
The NOcado campaign is trying to raise £17,000 in order to have its own legal representation considered as part of the appeal, and has so far raised some £14,500.
“Anybody who wants to donate can go to www.nocado.org to donate… People don’t have to give their name if they don’t want to,” said Ms De la Tour.
She added that she was concerned about the plan’s potential to “kill off a lot of the local shops”, saying: “Many local shops around here are struggling, of course, and their livelihoods will go to the wind.”
Responding to Ocado’s claim that a distribution hub in the area is necessary to meet local demand for their deliveries, Ms De la Tour said another location should be sought.
“They can easily sort something else out,” she said.
“There are areas all around London… even in our area, where there are spaces where they’re not right next to a school.”
Approached for comment, a spokeswoman for Ocado said: “Ocado is committed to having a positive impact on the local community.
“This would be the greenest and quietest grocery facility in the UK, and we would commit to using a 100 per cent electric van fleet – replacing the vans that currently deliver in the area – and install a green ‘living wall’ along the boundary (with the school). It would also create around 300 new jobs for the local economy.”
Children at Yerbury Primary School – some not born when the saga began in 2019 – celebrated the latest refusal of permission for an Ocado depot next to their school earlier this year
The company argues that the industrial estate next to the school was previously used for a similar purpose between 1992 and 2002 – and that permission should therefore be granted for it to be used in that way again.
But planning officers at the council said in their latest decision earlier this year that evidence provided by Ocado in support of that argument was “unclear, confused, internally inconsistent and inconsistent with the limited ‘independent’ material available”.
NOcado member Fenella Grey, a parent at the school, said the prolonged battle over the project had been “really exhausting” and it would be “a huge relief” to see the matter settled.