Mary, queen of deliveries?

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The industry has been arguing for it for years. And it looks like it might actually get it, but the credit is probably going to go to Mary Queen of Shops. The issue is cutting restrictions on night time deliveries to the high street.

The business case is obvious and trials run by the Freight Transport Association, Sainsbury’s and the Noise Abatement Society suggest that night-time deliveries don’t have to mean disturbance for local residents.

Earlier this year the FTA argued that night time deliveries could help deal with the congestion in London that is likely as a result of the Olympics. Natalie Chapman, head of policy for London, said: “The benefits of night-time deliveries are proven and irresistible.”

However, politicians see few votes in telling people that they might have to live with being woken up by lorries in the middle of the night. What seems to be swinging the government behind the idea is the report by retail guru Mary Portas (appointed by David Cameron himself) which proposes a number of steps to revitalise Britain’s high streets. Much of the attention has been focused on her ideas for the development of markets, along with parking charges for out of town sites. But she also makes it clear that night-time delivery restrictions need to be reconsidered.

Closures of high street stores have been alarming the government. One shop in seven is now empty.  It’s bad enough that names like Woolworths and Zavvi have gone, but when a successful retailer like Sir Philip Green says he will have to shut 260 high street stores, ministers feel the need to take action.

But any attempt to remove the restrictions will still be controversial – opponents will seek to characterise them in terms of juggernauts thundering down quiet residential streets at 3am.

If this change is to be a reality, it is up to the industry to make every effort to ensure that disruption to the public is kept to a minimum. The reputation of the industry is at stake, and failing to live up to the promise of no disturbance for local residents would do serious damage.

Logistics Manager, January 2012

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