The Mill Road Tesco saga

This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 86.


Together with David Howarth, MP for Cambridge, we asked whether twice-daily deliveries of 41 minutes each from a 34-foot lorry would be appropriate on Mill Road.
Image as described adjacent

On 26th August 2009 Tesco opened their new store on Mill Road. The Cycling Campaign has no view on Tesco as a company, nor on the issue of independent shops that others have raised, but we were concerned to ensure that the delivery proposals for their store did not affect safety nor cause delays on Mill Road, just as we have been with other cases such as the 3663 deliveries and Downing Street issues raised in earlier Newsletters. This stretch of Mill Road is already the fourth-highest accident blackspot in all of Cambridgeshire.

After a long series of failed planning applications and a failed public inquiry, Tesco decided to press ahead with opening a small store. There is a planning condition dating from 1971 on this specific site, stating that unloading has to take place within the site, i.e, not from Mill Road or from Sedgwick Street. Other shops do not have this condition. Though this may not seem fair, it is not a reason to make things worse. Tesco stated publicly in the Cambridge Evening News they were going to ignore this condition, which would have resulted in lorries 10.35 m long delivering on Mill Road twice a day for 41 minutes a time. Following a letter from us to the Planning Department, and no doubt much correspondence from others, the City Council declared that it was an enforceable condition.

A week before opening, Tesco performed a U-turn and confirmed their intention only to deliver from within the site. In the light of this, a meeting of the East Area Committee agreed not to take immediate enforcement action, but to authorise officers to do so if it proved necessary. This is a pleasing outcome for the Cycling Campaign, and will mean that the already bad delivery problems on Mill Road will not be made worse. At the time of writing, Tesco have not been spotted breaking this condition. (If they do, calls will mount again for the City Council to take enforcement action, for which it now has authorisation.)

Tesco are thus sending 8-metre lorries down Sedgwick Street, which is an extremely narrow local street with cars parked on both sides. On the day before opening, we received an e-mail from a resident of the street, stating how a lorry driver was overheard describing the backing of his large lorry into the small delivery yard (containing parked cars) as ‘ridiculous’, saying that it didn’t accord with his risk assessment. It remains to be seen how this option will play out and whether Tesco will find it so impractical that they deliver from Mill Road after all, or whether they will use smaller vehicles more appropriate to this site.

The County Council are currently consulting on a safety scheme for Mill Road (see previous article). When responding, please ask them to consider including the need for action on illegal or inappropriate deliveries within the scheme.

Martin Lucas-Smith