Greenwich Council will “aggressively” monitor the impact of traffic from east Greenwich’s new Ikea, which opens to the public in a week’s time, its cabinet member for transport has promised.
The controversial store, approved by the council in 2014, opens its doors next Thursday, and has been hosting a series of preview days this week.
Anxiety about the store’s opening has been exacerbated by the appearance of electronic signs in the area immediately around the store plugging the store’s opening date and urging drivers to “travel sustainably” and leave their cars at home.
Past store openings have seen neighbourhoods gridlocked, while other stores in the UK have continued to been huge traffic magnets. Worryingly for many locals, the store’s first full Saturday in operation will coincide with a home match at nearby Charlton Athletic.
At Wednesday night’s full council meeting, Blackheath Westcombe councillor Geoff Brighty criticised the store’s travel plan – part of its planning permission – for containing “vacuous waffle”, and asked: “Who is going to be monitoring it? If there are problems, what recourse is there for residents who are going to suffer from travel impacts?”
Denise Scott-McDonald, the cabinet member for transport, talked up the travel plan, but said Ikea were “quite hard to negotiate with” – a marked change in rhetoric about the store, which senior councillors had previously praised unconditionally. Indeed, Scott-McDonald posed for publicity photos at the store when construction started in November 2017.
“We encouraged them to do a soft launch, they wanted to do something bigger,” she said. The store’s opening date already features in poster and social media advertising.
“We’ve set up a small group of officers and other individuals who will monitor it,” she continued. “We are looking carefully to make sure things are monitored in a much more aggressive way. We have encouraged Ikea to engage more with the local community, we have been going back and forth with Ikea on a lot of things.”
A scrutiny panel heard last week that 100 of the 400 jobs created by the store had gone to borough residents. Ikea says the store is “its most sustainable yet” and has set a target for 41% of its customers to arrive driving their cars – the rest being their passengers, public transport users, walkers and cyclists.
While road changes are still being worked on, there is so far no sign of promised public realm improvements and TfL has this week confirmed cuts to bus route 486, one of the major services passing the store.
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