Ikea east Greenwich
The east Greenwich Ikea has now been open for six and a half months

Plans for up to five hours’ free car parking at east Greenwich’s “sustainable” Ikea store have been approved by Greenwich Council – despite initial objections from the council’s own officers.

Shoppers using the Millennium Retail Park had been able to park for up to four hours, although this limit had not been enforced since the Sainsbury’s store on the site closed four years ago, and signage erected five years ago warned of a five-hour limit instead.

A report from council planning officers said the opening of the furniture store in February had caused “no major adverse impacts” on the area.

Ikea asked Greenwich Council for the limit to be formally increased to five hours, with vehicles being monitored by automatic number plate recognition cameras.

But Greenwich’s highways department objected, on the grounds that allowing customers to stay for longer could increase congestion.

“It is possible that this length of stay period will not encourage an efficient turnover of space and could promote longer stays requiring a greater number of parking spaces overall,” it said. “It is also likely that events at the O2 or Charlton home games are likely to attract motorists to also park at the site and while this has not been an issue over the last few years, the large retail element was not present. Long stay parking reduces the availability of spaces being accessible for other customers and can result in greater numbers of drivers circulating within the site which could result in congestion and possibly subsequent queues developing at the access points affecting the highway.”

However, the owner of the car park responded to say that the five-hour limit was to accommodate visitors to the nearby Odeon cinema. Its representation read: “The five-hour request is one from the Odeon. Therefore, on the basis people could be in the cinema for up to three hours, plus maybe a meal, I think we need to leave it at five hours. Otherwise, I suspect we are going to be inundated with complaints/challenges.”

A council officers’ report continued: “The opening has not caused unacceptable pressures on the car park and as such the highways officer has verbally withdrawn their objection to the five hour period.”

Four objections were received to the proposal, on the grounds of traffic impacts. The report adds: “The proposed time limit is consistent with that of the site prior to the opening of Ikea, and as such no additional traffic from local events is expected.

“In addition Ikea has been open for seven months and the amount of traffic generated has been an acceptable level, with no major adverse impacts identified. The continuation of the five hour time limit is therefore considered to be acceptable.”

Ikea has claimed the Greenwich store is its “most sustainable yet”, although its first few weekends were blighted by weekend traffic jams, with Transport for London blaming the store’s car parking system for early problems. While new foot crossings have been installed near the store, promised improvements to pedestrian signage have still not materialised, six months after it opened.

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