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Ocado loses High Court fight over distribution centre near primary school

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Online supermarket Ocado has lost a High Court fight with a council over the use of a storage and distribution centre near a primary school in north London after residents raised pollution concerns.

Bosses had taken legal action against Islington Council over its reversal of approval for use of the site at Bush Industrial Estate in Tufnell Park.

A judge on Monday dismissed Ocado’s claim for judicial review of a council decision.

Mr Justice Holgate had considered the case at a High Court hearing in May.

Children from Yerbury Primary School in Islington, north London, take part in a protest outside the High Court in May
Children from Yerbury Primary School in Islington, north London, take part in a protest outside the High Court in May (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

In 2019, the council had granted property company Telereal Trillium a certificate of lawful development for the site, the judge heard.

Ocado had entered a lease agreement for the units 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 Telereal Trillium and “material information (was) withheld” with regard to the nature and extent of the plan and the nature of the use and occupation.

Pupils from Yerbury Primary School had gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London before the hearing and chanted: “Hey, Ocado, leave our school alone.”

Residents opposed use of the units “by anyone in an unrestricted manner”.

They raised concerns about traffic, engine fumes, noise, light, and other forms of pollution, and the effect on the 450 children who attended Yerbury Primary School.

Yerbury head teacher Cassie Moss said the site was opposite the school “literally along the whole length of our playground”.

Lawyers representing Ocado had raised several issues.

They said the council had “erred in law” and failed to take into account material considerations.

Mr Justice Holgate disagreed.

“Public confidence in certificates of lawfulness of an existing use or development must extend to the reliability of the information put forward by an applicant to support the grant of a certificate,” he said in a written ruling.

“That was a matter which Islington plainly had in mind…”

He added: “Telereal obtained a certificate to which it was not entitled on the basis of the information it provided and withheld.”

An Ocado spokesman said after the ruling: “We are disappointed with today’s judgment.

“Our proposals for the Bush Industrial Estate are to build the greenest and quietest grocery facility in the UK with a 100% electric van fleet.

“We remain committed to the Islington community, where we delivered to one in six households in 2020, and will continue to look at how we can deliver a better service to the borough and significantly reduce our emissions.”

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