So, if you saw the ad in Greenwich Council’s propaganda weekly announcing Ikea’s plans to build a new superstore, or if you got a letter through your door, you’d have expected to have learned something new from Saturday’s exhibition at Greenwich’s Forum.

But Ikea was remarkably short of detail on its plan to build a new store on the soon-to-be vacated Sainsbury’s site off Peartree Way. When Sainsbury’s mounted a similar exhibition two years ago to announce its intentions to move to Charlton, a lot more questions had been answered.

Instead, all we got was….

Ikea Greenwich plan

…a map which merely confirms that Ikea wants to knock down Sainsbury’s and Comet and plonk a new store on the same space.

Ikea greenwash

…some greenwash.

Ikea exhibition

…give us our store or these people in a stock photo won’t have jobs!

And that was about it. One thing which struck me was how confident Ikea’s reps were – “well, it’s either us or another store,” one told me, while I overheard one man in a yellow shirt explain to a colleague he’d be in charge of the project “once we get planning permission”. Indeed, since these displays will be on show in East Greenwich Library for the next fortnight, it’s effectively a free ad from Greenwich Council.

So, what was said about the elephant in the room, traffic? Not a lot. When asked, Ikea’s reps conceded there’d be an increase to traffic, and acknowledged the current access from the Woolwich Road flyover was a problem. But their only idea to fix things was merely to encourage car drivers to use the A102 exit at Blackwall Lane instead.

Ikea Greenwich exhibition

Much was made of the proposed store sitting on six bus routes and being a short walk from others (Ikea seems to have included night bus N1 in its figures), but a Billy bookcase doesn’t go well on a bus.

Ikea Neasden

When I explained to an Ikea rep that I was a non-driver, he seemed somewhat surprised I hadn’t taken advantage of its costly delivery service. Like every other non-driver I know, the last time I used Ikea to buy something bulky, I sponged a lift to Croydon.

And as for “several off-street cycle routes serving the site” – really?! Where? – it’s worth pointing out that the Neasden Ikea has a whole three cycle racks. (Thanks to tweeter @Helzbels for the shot.)

Ikea’s confidence that many people will use public transport seems somewhat misplaced. In fact, one of its displays betrayed that.

“At present, people living and working in the Royal Borough of Greenwich… travel to our stores in Croydon, Lakeside or Tottenham.” The latter store is actually practically impossible to get to by public transport from this part of London. In fact, Ikea’s Neasden store is only 40 minutes up the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich, but public transport doesn’t seem to be Ikea’s strength.

Back in 2004, Ikea put in a planning application to Bromley Council for a store at the old Klinger factory site in Sidcup, together with a separate application to Bexley Council for an approach road. It was later withdrawn.

While the Sidcup site had much poorer public transport access, many of the observations from this Greater London Authority planning report from 2004 ring true of Ikea’s Greenwich plans – especially this one:

“It is not within or near a town centre and is an out of centre location chosen specifically for its proximity to the A20 with its ease of access by private motor vehicle from south east London and Kent. Indeed, the Medway towns of Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham, and Gravesend are all large conurbations within 30 minutes drive from this store along a motorway.”

Switch dual carriageways and add another 15 minutes, and you’ve got Ikea’s Greenwich plan – a magnet for Kent car drivers, and a pain for everyone in Greenwich itself. If it’s serious about winning over residents, Ikea needs to actually start thinking about its plans, rather than assuming people will be wowed by talk of solar panels and bus routes.

45 replies on “Ikea Greenwich exhibition: Greenwash and wishful thinking”

  1. I agree. The local traffic that currently clogs the roads around Sainsburys is not going very far, just half a mile down the road, for Ikea to then suck in traffic not just locally but regionally. All contributing to the congestion and associated air quality problems that the Silvertown Link may, or may not, solve. Without significant changes to the road layouts (ingress/egress directly from the A102 perhaps) we might find the warm welcome many people are giving this project quickly chills.

  2. Again I ask this, what would you suggest goes there that wouldn’t create more traffic? Sure one store is better than two??

    Again that more thought should be put into the traffic flow issues but that would be down to the highways department not a retailer.

    Also, it is stated that 853 was bemused by the lack of info.. I was there too and for a project that hasn’t even submitted a planning proposal, I though there was plenty of information and wouldn’t it suggest the this exibition wasn’t just for the likes of certain ‘Societies’ but maybe so the retailer got the feedback be it negative or positive to help them work in the issues before submitting any form of proposal?

    We shall see I guess… Not sure about others but when I do visit other ikea stores, I always make use of the trip and visit other stores in the area… Surely that would be a good thing to happen on our door step?


    Imagine being able just to popped down on foot to browse for insperation and of course grab a cheap breakfast on a Saturday morning!

    Very lastly!!… For your information, I came home on the jubilee line and back up to the standard by bus from Wembly with a Billy Book case! Struggled but was is stood in my study as proof haha!

  3. An idea struck me on the way home from the exhibition:

    – Move B&Q to Charlton (it’s widely believed Makro will eventually go).

    – Change planning designation.

    – Demolish retail park buildings and install housing on site around cinema and restaurants. This creates link between GMV and the rest of the area and capitalises on close link to Westcombe Park station. Downside would be likely high density and proximity of filthy A102.

    It’s just an idea which popped into my head, but it’s no madder than a “sustainable” supermarket which gets knocked down after 15 years.

  4. Darryl, nice view of the trees but a step or two back may afford a better view of the wood. This is all in conformity with the Charlton Master Plan, a plan that appears to be heavily supported by LXB – a Jersey based ‘developer’ that specialises in buying, demolishing and selling on for dense retail development. After producing a good profit on the new Sainsburys’ site LXB appear to be eying up Bugsbys Way as an area of major potential for retail development – and profitability. A new shopping centre for the Peninsular? Who knows but it’s certainly bad news for the existing shopping centres that surround the area and an encouragement to do all shopping by car. Woolwich, Greenwich Eltham and Blackheath all pose problems for the shopper/driver but not the Charlton development.

    Add the loss of local employment as more expensive housing is built, social housing ignored and affordable housing discounted to developers. This only provides more people for the overstretched public transport services and, inevitably, more cars used by frustrated commuters – with more longer journeys to work, if there is any, for those whose livelihoods go with the destruction of local industry.

    Still, not, perhaps, as bad as it at first appears if the new ‘homes’ are advertised in Asia as investments or pied a terre for visiting business people. Roll on the Greenwich Core Strategy Examination in Public.

  5. I spent something like five hours there talking to residents about their impressions of it all. Almost everybody mentioned traffic, even the ones who were keen. I will try to write it all up later. I thought the IKEA people there looked exhausted by the time I left and I suspect they hadn’t been prepared for so much criticism. It seemed to come down to a jobs:traffic equation for most people – no one seemed much interested in the meat balls or the furniture – not even the hideous green chair in the corner,

  6. I don’t know how they can have sent people along unprepared for questions about traffic. It’s surely the number one issue they must face when looking to open new stores everywhere in the UK? While sainsburys is pretty busy, comet was always a dying business and generated very little traffic. An ikea would be so busy on a Saturday that the car park will surely not be big enough, leading to traffic queuing all the way around the area, through the two junctions and up onto to a102 etc. Still, sounds like it’s well on the way to being billed as a triumph for the Royal Borough in an upcoming issue of GT…

  7. Don’t know about this Kent mass flock to Greenwich, if you live in Dartford, Medway or Gravesend you’ll go to Thurrock, easier drive, more shopping options on top of Ikea, and for a lot of those drivers, the Dartford Crossing will be free to use from next year (including vans)

  8. When I heard Ikea was coming to the Sainsbury’s site, I first thought ‘oh that’s interesting’, then I considered the traffic and thought – naaah, probably not the best place – just ’cause of the traffic. Shame.

    But, I don’t know where all the traffic comes from. It wasn’t that long ago the traffic was OK there, but now the queues are ridiculous.
    I actually think traffic light design and timing could be a big contributor to congestion. For instance, awhile ago if you got a green light on the A102/A206 roundabout, you ALWAYS got around on green. Now 90% of the time you get green and the next set is red. Why? I was actually on a bus once when all roads from the round about were clear, but there was a huge tail back from Sainsbury’s – They had tweaked the lights + got it wrong.
    Check out the left green arrow coming from Sainsbury’s car park – no signage saying left turn only, or a 3rd lane for left turns, nope the green arrow comes on and the first few cars are expecting to go straight on or right – ending up in a flurry of car horns.

    So I think the council/Ikea have scope to improve traffic through-put to negate the impact of extra traffic. It may mean some re-work of the A102/A206 Junction + better traffic light sequencing. But unfortunately I don’t trust the powers incumbent to get it right.

  9. I thought the exhibition was fairly half-hearted, but given that they’re not even applying for planning permission yet, it was unlikely to be otherwise. Even so, there were precious few IKEA (and consultant) staff, most of whom seemed to be not there to answer the traffic questions.
    Personally, I’m not that bothered. It’s a big retail shed site, and although I agree that it’s an appalling waste to demolish that building (and disgraceful that Sainsbury’s are allowed to apply covenants to its use), I’ve rarely used it (cold, gloomy) and would prefer a non-food outlet. It’s lots of jobs.
    I’m mostly puzzled that IKEA want to be there. They have four stores sort-of neatly arranged around London’s periphery. I’d thought they might be claiming that Greenwich was for a different demographic, and that it would be full of all those carless couples in newbuilds arriving by public transport ordering for home delivery. I might even have believed it. But there was none of that. It’s just another IKEA. Given that it has no real competitors, you either go to IKEA or you don’t, and you mostly go in a car, so as long as you can access it in a reasonable time building extra stores is surely just cannibalising your own business. Anyone more than 5 miles from the peninsula (and everyone north of the river) will have an easier journey to another branch. I’m sure IKEA are grateful for my analysis.
    Will there be traffic problems? IKEA stores each have about 2.5 million visitors p.a. I’d guess that would be much the same volume of traffic as Sainsbury’s and Comet had. It will add to the area’s appalling pollution, and when something goes wrong it’ll be even worse, but it’s a small contribution to the volume of traffic in the area. Peartree Way gets congested because people arrive via the flyover roundabout (mostly rightly) and then try and leave the same way (mostly wrongly). The new Sainsbury’s may change all that for the worse.

    PS There are bike routes. Aldeburgh Street has a contraflow lane to save you using the roundabout when going to and from Charlton, and you can cycle over the bridge to Tunnel Avenue. IKEA did dabble briefly in bike trailers.

  10. One point is that the exhibition was ahead of a planning application going in – but so was the much more detailed one put on by Sainsbury’s/LXB two years ago.

    Granted, Ikea may be at an earlier stage, but the if they were taken aback by traffic fears, then they really should have done more homework, because they will have to do something dramatic (such as restricting traffic on Peartree Way) so get around that.

  11. Traffic will always be an issue on that site regardless of what is there. Better to have retail and jobs there rather than wasteland. If a busy new Ikea means TfL,GLA …etc. have to give greater focus on transport south of the river, then that’s a good thing.

    Going past, I noticed how busy the Nandos and Prezzo were on Sunday late afternoon. Ikea could also potentially have a wider knock-on effect for businesses and jobs. The cinema would make going to Ikea more bearable so there may well be significant customer demand. Going to Greenwich is a much nicer prospect than Brent or Croydon!.

    Many retailers are encouraging people to order online so the billy bookcase on public transport is unlikely to be such an issue. But the concept of a day out to Ikea is here to stay, so better to have it nearer than lose out, to say, across the river.

  12. As posted above, I’m not at all against an Ikea. The plans are at very early stages but the plan they presented above is disingenuous as it makes no indication for plans to hold the parking facilities required to accommodate an Ikea store.I personally don’t care so much but its ridiculous to suggest that the current area plan is adequate.

    Unless they are really interested in the plot opposite nearer to GMV? Can they lease/buy that out? The space required for additional warehousing and parking doesn’t seem to be compatible with the Sainsburys plot? Don’t new Ikea’s have overspill warehouses close by, where you sometimes drive to pick up large items. That was the case for the newest Ikea in Sydney (where I’ve just returned from). Given Ikea is completely identikit around the world (I can sadly confirm!), I would think this the kind of model they would be looking at. And yes, both Ikeas there had huge traffic overflow!

  13. Does anyone know if it’s true that this plan will entail the destruction of the small willdife area/green space at the back of Sainsbury’s? If so, will there be proper mitigation for this loss (not just a token nod to “sustainability”) or do they hope no one will notice?

  14. Hopefully such prime land can be used more smartly. Don’t allow acres of tarmac as of now – use a multi storey car park to minimise land use. Either a separate multi-storey to the main building or one with the store on top.

    Ikea are getting into property development now. I think they have done so in other European nations, and they have bought a big plot in Stratford to build a few thousand homes. No superstore there though, but I wonder if they are thinking about some housing on site in a development similar to the Woolwich tesco – large car park, massive store above, and housing above that. It would be a far more efficient use of scarce land.

    Traffic would be a massive issue of course but maybe something could be achieved e.g. big investment in deliveries so less need of a car.

  15. Our family have been long debating what would be a good fit for the Sainburys site and concluded that a new Decatlon store would be a good fit for the building, area and families, be interested to hear if anyone else have any alternatives to IKEA?

  16. This whole mess started with JSainsbury’s, their study showed that is wasn’t a feasible cost for them to extend into the Comet store SE10. So build a new store in Charlton to have a JSainsbury’s store the size of their developed store in Crayford and to have a better base for its food home delivery service, If you can afford it buy shares in JSainsbury’s to attend their AGM and let Justin King know how you feel. After 15 years of trading in SE10 JSainsbury’s don’t want another food retailer on this SE10 site to compete with, this is JSainsbury’s thank you to 15 years of custom from SE10 Shoppers. I didn’t see any turkeys on sale in the Tesco express or JSainsbury’s local. JSainsbury’s shouldn’t dictate on who they want to take this land over when they go. JSainsbury’s be good to your self and not your customers. JSainsbury’s Local coming to you on the old GDH site in SE10 another chop at the small independent retailers in East Greenwich.

    Swap BQ with Asda then SE10 retains a food store of a decent size for the SE10 shoppers. Planners keep this JSainsbury’s site that you gave planning permission to back the 90s to remain a food retailer, there are thousands of apartments being built in SE10 and they all need to eat.
    Extend JSainsbury’s where it is now and get LNX to put Ikea on this new Charlton Site.

    Is it true that Matalan is temporality going into the Comet store whilst is site is developed? We might as well bring in Morrison and Tesco to make up the big four.

    Dartford, Bexley, Bromley, Lewisham, Greenwich, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, City will all come to Greenwich to shop in Ikea.

    I still want to shop in IKEA Greenwich in 2015! Over 18 they will pay the London Living Wage*********************** they told me on Saturday.

  17. Interesting piece here about the eco-store facing demolition after only 15 tears.

    Basically it makes the point that demolishing the store now to rebuild makes a complete joke of its 15 years being Eco. The carbon footprint of knocking it down and rebuilding will be far far bigger than the carbon footprint saved by its various eco-devices over a decade and a half. Madness.

    Why not let another food store take it over so that the building can remain?

    Sainsbury’s want to move so why is Greenwich Council allowing them the option of vetoing another food store in the old Eco building? If they want to move then they should be please at their new place. If they don’t want to move then let them stay there. Either way, there is NO case for them to have a right of veto as to what happens to their old store.

    I’ve got lots of Ikea stuff in my house. And I love their horse meat hot dogs. BUT if Ikea move there it will be easily their most accessible store and the traffic implications will be huge.

    Imagine a Saturday morning in May 2015 with Greenwich flooded with tourists, a match on at Charlton, and in the middle of all that the biggest middle class magnet of them all, Ikea, drawing cars full of bickering married punters from all over London. Madness.

    How does adding an Ikea to that location fit into the Charlton Masterplan with its stated aim of down grading the Woolwich Road? It doesn’t.

    Joseph – in answer to your question: “Again I ask this, what would you suggest goes there that wouldn’t create more traffic? Sure one store is better than two??”
    The answer is that almost anything would create less traffic than an Ikea. Put another food store there (like Asda or Morrison’s) and it’s one of 200 food supermarkets in London. Put an Ikea there and it’s one of FOUR Ikeas serving a city of seven million.

  18. I am genuinely interested. Why do people rave about Ikea?

    It’s full of flat-pack furniture. What’s the attraction? Am I the only person in London that has a house with no Ikea furniture in it?

  19. Um Ikea serves up cheap reasonably stylish furniture. Compare it with other flat packs available in B&Q or Argos and you will see why.

    Ikea does not have that many stores for a city it’s size. Many of it’s London stores are significantly over traded. The problem is there are not that many dual carriage ways in London, compared to other cities, where it can find sites to build. It will take a long time to double the number of stores in London,

  20. No Chris. Never even looked at a catalogue myself. Pirate King: The Masterplan is to make Woolwich the Metropolitan Centre. I was never aware of any real commitment to down grade the Woolwich Road. Where did that come in? The real needs of Charlton and the Riverside don’t figure much. And Joe, just remember that biodiversity off setting is likely to take care of any green spaces that end up as collateral damage to the big players. Yup Owen Paterson’s cheap and cheerful green paper on cheap and cheerful wheezes to get development through has passed most of the world by. Never mind. Green can disappear from Greenwich so long as the developer puts something (anything?) somewhere (anywhere?). I think Darryl mentions “somewhere over the rainbow” oops I meant the Peninsula about the Sainsbury green space. Mary mentions the exhausted IKEA staff at the presentation who probably didn’t expect criticism. Pained surprise at lack of welcome for a developer’s fine scheme is a well worn ploy they all use.

  21. The exhibition was s bit of an empty shell. IKEA projected 40% would visit by public transport (Croydon is the highest now at 25%) thus reducing traffic pressures. But many people challenged this as to avoid the extortionate £15-£60 delivery charge, customers will bring a friend with a car even if they don’t have a vehicle). It is like a tax on public transport users or a subsidy for car drivers.

    IKEA would not budge. Just like their box design and determination to build on the wildlife area, they have a one size fits all inflexible approach. And the car remains at the heart of their business model. If course they will be popular bringing good value furnishings closer to millions but they really gave to show some lateral, innovative and out-of-box thinking to make this carbon neutral.attractive, safe walking routes to Westcombe Park station and the Charlton Riverside retail area and free deliveries within a certain range. And how about an iconic design!

  22. I feel we’re going to struggle to fend this application off once it comes in. Perhaps if there are enough objections come the time we can force IKEA to fund improvements to landscaping, traffic light phasing, road layouts etc in the immediate area. Seeing as they plan to build on the little eco park and demolish what was supposedly a former eco building these measures should pose no problem for such a massive business.

  23. I think your bang on there Gordon. This is pretty much a done deal, it’s just boils down to making one store out of two. Getting all possible improvements in traffic light phasing, road layouts etc is the best we can get out of this

  24. Posted without comment (as I am not a driver and know nothing about electric cars) –

    Interesting that IKEA are loudly trumpeting their sustainable energy credentials (or rather, ambitions). I am sure we will hear a lot about these policies during the planning permission stage. Doesn’t actually mean any less cars on the road though, hybrids or otherwise.

  25. It will all be a done deal as others have said. Mitigations? Well they get written in and half the time are ignored and not worth the paper and printer ink.

  26. When others have campaigned as long and hard as some of us have done and been knocked back at every turn, seen all planning conditions shot to hell with no enforcement then criticise our pragmatic stance. Yes fight them but be realistic about what you can do or end up gibbering and squeaking in the streets. And jobs will win out over traffic and congestion. Too old to be anything but cynical as the roundabout has gone round too many times before.

  27. If the wildlife area behind Sainsbury is going will some qualified people relocate the moorhens who breed there or leave them to get run down on the roads when the bulldozers move in ?

  28. If your luck holds , yes. A big scheme in the public eye is likely to get conditions attached and be monitored. Smaller developments NOT in the public eye have the conditions attached, they get broken by cynical developers who know they can get away with it and something good is lost for ever. Heart breaking but true. Hoping the luck will run in favour of the wild life in this case.

  29. I’ve fought a few development schemes, too, but it wasn’t losing that broke my heart, it was seeing that a lot of people didn’t want to look ahead far enough to see how things would go if they didn’t make a stand – the situation we are in now, essentially, with development doing city-wide damage to the environment and communities, not to mention developers having a good laiugh slapping their pockets at our expense. I feel like doing something active again now though – Crikey, even the archtects are starting to resist! If people genuinely think IKEA is a bad idea, and with the traffic pollution round here I can’t see how anyone can want more, let’s not start out by accepting the best we can get is meaningless conditions attached to ugly, destructive developments. Daryl’s idea to build the needed homes on the old Sainsbury’s site is by far the best one. I’d be more than willing to work together for that.

  30. The big problem is that developers use buzz words like eco, green and sustainability to tick the right boxes and get their schemes through. All of them guilty of short term thinking as pointed out above.Then they get what they really want later on by putting in for variations of conditions when no one’s looking! And they get those too. Never think that it’s politicians who rule at either local or national level. It is big business from Mexico City to Manila and all points in between. And if you think everyone is against more pollution then try convincing the new tunnel advocates who can only see the advantages of getting to work over the river a bit earlier. They exist!

  31. I believe Greenwich Council need to take a stand here (whatever central government say) and live up to their role of protecting East Greenwich from becoming viewed as a drive-in/drive-out industrial estate rather than an outstanding area of urban regeneration as was originally intended. Lets not forget that the current Sainsbury’s building was and remains a landmark development. It is a wonderful piece of architecture that provides a light and intimate shopping space. It is specifically low rise and unobtrusive. It fits in with the local community. Sainsbury’s should respect this and unilaterally revoke any restrictive covenants they may have in place for its reuse. Let it be a Lidl, or an Aldi, heaven knows we need the competition these days.

    As for Ikea’s motivation, the original well researched blog explains IKEA’s purpose very well. A massive blue and yellow advert to people on the A102(M) to suck in non-local traffic to an area with no real way of expanding the road network. If it wasn’t appropriate for Bromley, it is certainly not appropriate for East Greenwich. If Ikea are serious about an “in town” development appealing to those who rely on public transport access then they should rethink their current retail model since a showroom model would not require such a massive “identikit” store anyway – take over the current Comet store and try out something new. If they don’t want to, then build the stores in the more fitting locations, out of town, perhaps in an area that needs some new jobs and a new focal point.

    In short, the problem is not Ikea, it is that this type of store they will build is simply not appropriate or in keeping with location.

    For some light topical relief search up “ikea gravity spoof” on you-tube and you’ll see why they need such a massive space…

  32. Thanks Darryl for starting this discussion. I’ve only just got round to looking at the “consultation” letter that came through my door last week. I’d already thought of most of the above reasons to object to this before I came across your blog post. I would summarise the “anti” case by saying this:

    IKEA’s own website includes a detailed policy document “people and planet positive”. The aims are admirable but unless the company actually operates by its own stated aims it is worth nothing. Whilst I could not find in that policy anything specific about seeking to use existing shop units rather than build new ones, all the commitments to energy reduction, sustainability and “zero waste to landfill” point to this being the preference. For IKEA to build a new store with all the construction traffic and energy that entails, when there is already a large and environmentally friendly store existing on the site, is sheer hypocrisy.

    But accepting that they are planning to do this, Royal Greenwich Borough produced a very detailed “climate change strategy” in 2011 with sections on construction activity and the energy performance of new buildings, and we should pressure councillors to ensure that any development on this site fully complies with it.

    The traffic issue did not strike me as a particular problem – would a furniture store really attract more shoppers at any one time than a supermarket?

  33. Hi Stephen

    Answering your last comment – yep. An Ikea there would draw many more punters to it from a wider radius than (say) a bog standard but large Tescos of Morrison’s or Asda. There are only a few Ikeas inside the M25. All are a massive draw.

  34. Save Sainsbury’s Greenwich (if you want to sign this petition go to Petition Buzz website)
    or googel, Save Sainsbury”s Greenwich

    18% 1,000

    Opened on November 27, 2013

    Sainsbury’s Greenwich, the pioneering eco store, opened by Jamie Oliver in 1999 is threatened with demolition by IKEA after less than 15 years. This is not sustainable development and represents an act of vandalism resulting in the destruction of an exemplar building that should simply be reused by another retailer. If you agree that this is unacceptable behaviour and should be stopped please sign our petition!
    » Contact Petition’s Author

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