As we get more and more used to home deliveries as the Covid pandemic subsides, what are the impacts in terms of pollution?
In North London, the community around Yerbury School is fighting against the development of a 24/7 Ocado distribution depot. Concerns for local residents include noise and air pollution from trucks supplying the warehouse and vans making local deliveries.
For nearly four years, the street in front of the primary school has been closed during pick-up and drop-off times to reduce students’ exposure to air pollution. The planned depot, on the other hand, will be next to the playground, just two meters from some classroom windows.
Liam Frost, the vice principal, said: “The 450 children in our school are forced to come here every day and breathe the air, however clean it is. Children deserve to know that the adults in their lives are taking care of them and their future.
“School Street has shown the children how we can work together to improve the local environment, but this is completely compromised by the plans for the depot at the rear of the building.”
A spokesperson for Ocado said: “Ocado is committed to having a positive impact on the local community. It would be the greenest and quietest grocery store in the UK, and we have committed to using a fleet of 100% electric delivery vans – replacing the vans currently delivering to the area – and installing a ” green living wall along the border. It would also create around 300 new jobs for the local economy.
Research in nearby primary schools in east London found that children in the most polluted places were developing smaller lungs. In 2016, a report by the Royal College of Physicians called for action to minimize pollution near schools.
In New York, researchers examining the impacts of a new grocery warehouse in the city concluded that the focus should be on reducing traffic and pollution in overcrowded communities, rather than adding traffic-intensive facilities.
The warehouse had been built in an area with a large number of poor houses, a high number of children with asthma, and a high air pollution load. Traffic and noise levels increased after the facility opened, particularly at night, and the local community did not reap the benefits of long-term improvements in air pollution in the city.
In Southern California, researchers studied the locations chosen for warehouses and their impacts on people living nearby. They found that warehouses were associated with increased air pollution, noise levels and traffic collisions and were disproportionately located in low-income minority communities. The new warehouses created jobs, but these were often poorly paid and brought little benefit to the local community.
The surroundings of our heritage buildings and sensitive natural habitats are already protected from harmful development. Should vulnerable communities and schools benefit from similar protections?