Sheffield Waitrose delivery centre plans a "slap in the face" after closure of John Lewis

A plan to develop delivery facilities by popular retail chains on Sheffield’s Ecclesall Road has seen massive objections due to concerns over the loss of green infrastructure – and that it would be a “click and deliver” replacement for John Lewis.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 10:53 am

According to the Sheffield City Council website, Waitrose, in its partnership with John Lewis, have recently applied for a planning permission to erect a rooftop refrigeration plant and develop delivery facilities at its store on Ecclesall Road.

And with the formation of the facilities, said residents, would not only cause environmental effects to the city, but would also be a ‘huge slap in the face’ to Sheffield following the recent devastating announcement by John Lewis to permanently close its department store.

A campaign group spearheading the objection, Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust said said the supermarket chain would create an ‘e-Commerce depot’ at its store using a small car park on Cemetery Road, which they own and is used by their own vehicles.

Waitrose and John Lewis Partnership have come under fire for their proposal to develop "delivery facilities" in Sheffield.

The Porter, they said in a statement, is culverted for several hundred metres under the supermarket and its large car park but a small neglected section of the river appears in this car park.

“At present it is largely hidden behind a big, broken down timber fence and is confined to an ugly concrete channel usually littered with rubbish, but the car park is accessible to the public on foot and the river can be glimpsed at the junction of Cemetery Road with London Road.

“Believing that Waitrose and its parent company John Lewis are supportive of both the natural environment and partnership, the Sheaf and Porter Trust therefore approached the company requesting that as part of the redevelopment of this site they undertake some restoration of the river and replace the fence with an attractive low safety railing to allow better public access and visibility.

"We are offering to work in partnership with Waitrose to look after the restored river as part of our campaign to restore it as a habitat and for public enjoyment, as other businesses and the Council are doing at nearby sites on the Porter, most notably at Sylvester St and Matilda St.

Waitrose and John Lewis Partnership have come under fire for their proposal to develop "delivery facilities" in Sheffield.

If the proposal is given the go-ahead, the group said this would also contradict the 'Connecting Sheffield’ infrastructure scheme aimed at transforming travel connectivity alongside complementary environmental improvements.

According to them, Waitrose Customer Service have declined the trust’s offer.

"The triangle of land between the river and road, although of little operational value, will be enclosed behind two lines of ugly mesh security barrier, established trees and shrubs removed and no improvement to the river is even considered,” they added.

The group said the function of the proposed ‘e-Commerce depot’ “becomes rather more clear” in light of the announcement that the John Lewis Department store in Sheffield will close for good.

Proposed refrigeration plant layout roof level as obtained from Sheffield City Council.

"This is effectively the click and deliver replacement for that store in Sheffield.

“One would have thought that JLP would have seized any opportunity to offer some small shred of a good news story to the huge slap in Sheffield’s face that the store closure represents. Instead, they continue to be tone deaf to local sentiment and offers of partnership.

“We would hope that JLP/Waitrose might now reconsider this remote and patronising position before this proposal goes before the Planning Committee,” they said.

The planning proposal, which has been published on Sheffield City Council website as “formation of delivery facilities including provision of canopy and security fencing/gates, insertion access openings, and alterations to glazing and provision external seating to café”, has also received objections from members of the public.

The planning permission has received objections from residents.

A resident wrote: “I am dissapointed that Waitrose / John Lewis Partnership have changed from a company that respects it staff, customers and communities in which it operates to one that is self serving and disrespectful of the environment and local community.

"It seems to me that the closure of the JLP store in the city centre and this project at Waitrose were part of one plan to reduce the service provided to the people in this city whilst hoping to maintain our spending.

“I realise that the above comments are not relevant to a planning application; however the removal of trees and shrubs in a rather drab built up area is as this is detrimental to the amenity value of the area and a retrograde step in terms of enhancing the green nature of our city. The council is trying to open up our rivers for public access and the least that JLP could do is to fit in with the aspirations of the City Council and residents of Sheffield."

Another wrote: “The proposals would result in the loss of mature trees and shrubs around a small exposed section of the Porter River. The proposals would cause further enclosure and reduction in important habitats to support ecological connectivity along the river route. The proposals also do not set out any mitigation measures or new green infrastructure to offset the loss of mature trees and hedges.

“The proposals also conflict with existing and emerging Local Plan policies on improving pedestrian and cycle access.

“The loss of green infrastructure and replacement with the proposed fencing is also considered to undermine the visual amenity of the area, which has open important views from the Inner Relief Road. The quality and appearance of the proposed fencing and infrastructure is considered inadequate as a permanent fixture for the edge of city centre and prominent location.

Notification of planning application. Picture obtained from Sheffield City Council website

"The applicant also does not clarify the likely change in parking demand as a result of the proposed development and how the loss of staff car parking spaces would affect the parking provision. Improvements to the supermarket including the introduction of e-commerce is likely to increase demand for car parking and this matter has not been adequately addressed or supported through assessment.”

There have been a total of 67 objections at the time of writing.

Waitrose/JLP have been approached for comments.