Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Somerfield Plc (IT 88)


Relevant elements of the White Paper


  Proposed restriction on delivery times are likely to severely limit daytime deliveries.

Company position

  The problem is achieving a balance between reducing emissions (slow day-time traffic increases emissions; faster, unimpeded driving—i.e., at night—reduces emissions) and reducing night time noise which offends residents when stores are based within the community/high street leading to delivery restrictions.

  Somerfield is willing to work to reduce daytime deliveries because the times of busiest traffic makes it harder/slower for us to deliver and weight of traffic increases harmful emissions. But inconsistency of delivery restrictions imposed by local authorities makes servicing community and high street stores extremely difficult. Inconsistency relates to permitted timings as well as permitted size of vehicles.

  The difficulties are compounded by local authorities adding to regulations by reducing the size of lorry used for delivering to stores despite the White paper suggesting that EU standard lorries may be permitted on our roads. Imposing restrictions on lorry sizes increases the number of deliveries.

  Example: At Paddock Wood, near Sevenoaks, Kent, the Local Authority has banned standard lorries permitting a maximum of 7.5 tonnes. This means that the store requires four deliveries each day instead of one.

Company contribution

  We are currently running a trial of night time deliveries to all south west stores. However this is threatened by night time delivery restrictions.

  Example: currently 26 per cent of our stores are subject to delivery restrictions. Those restrictions are not always "even-handed".

  Canford Heath in Dorset store may only receive deliveries between 6 am and 9 pm. Two Tesco stores within two miles have no delivery restrictions. In Ledbury, Hereford and Worcester, we can deliver only between 7 am and 6 pm. The competitors locally can deliver between 7 am and 11 pm.

  In the attempt to balance the environmental problem of noise, Somerfield has carried out an audit of the areas of potential problem. The results show that the actual noise of a vehicle is not the difficulty, it is that generated by roll cages, sliding doors on warehouses and the movement of machinery. As a result the company is making changes such as putting rubber wheels on rollcages, quieter sliding doors. Individually not a large job but a huge one when, for instance collectively the company owns hundreds of thousands of cages.


  The White Paper recommends using tolls as a mechanism for controlling/reducing town centre traffic. Town centre car parking for non-residents has also been proposed although we understand that the potential imposition of out of town parking taxes has been dropped. There is an added implication relating to the proposal to apply workplace parking charges.

Company position

  The existence and viability of the high street and community shopping area is heavily if not wholly dependant on the availability of good food shopping. The weight of the average weekly family shopping is 80 lbs—too much for people to carry. Imposing heavier car parking charges as a direct deterrent to using cars in town—while not doing the same to out of town stores—will drive people away from town centres. The provision of good public transport is not enough to retain in-town shoppers.

  Research by Somerfield on the relationship of food shopping in the high street with other forms of shopping showed that for every £1 spent in our stores which are in the centre of town, an additional 46p is spent in other local shops.

  People who work in towns usually shop in towns. If there are penalties imposed deterring them from bringing in their car it will also drive them to shop out of town at weekends and thus contribute to the erosion of the high street.

  Many of our stores serve rural communities for whom the car is a necessity, not a luxury. If the deterrent to drive into local towns and communities was imposed then the viability of our operating in those communities would rapidly reduce bringing food deserts to rural areas not just in inner cities.

  Note: we do operate in a number of the inner city areas too. We have a number of Somerfield and Kwik Save stores operating in areas that would be considered "deprived" and if we withdrew it would seriously affect the availability of fresh food in that area.

  They are:

    Sheffield (Manor Top)


    Birmingham (Saltley)


    Birmingham (Small Heath)


    London (Southall)


    Rhymney (South Wales)


    Liverpool (Hanover St)


    Glasgow (Dennistown)


    Glasgow (Dennistown)


Company contribution

  The most efficient method of encouraging shopping by public transport is to reduce the weight of shopping by offering a home delivery service. Somerfield's delivery service is operating in approximately 250 stores. This is an efficient method of transporting domestic shopping while not preventing or deterring people from shopping in town since it is a carry home service not a substitute for shopping.

  Now we are trialling in two stores a service of shopping by phone or fax.


Transport and the Community

  Somerfield is far away the biggest food provider within local communities having over 1,400 stores under the Somerfield, Kwik Save, Gateway fascia.

  Research shows that Somerfield shoppers have less cars per household and travel less far to shop.

  Support for in town community stores will therefore help the poorer members of those communities and reduce emissions from the cars of the shoppers themselves.

  Further the debate regarding transport policy focuses on the reduction of emissions of harmful gases and this is clearly a far bigger issue in the long term than that of noise.

  High emissions have been shown to damage health, in particular causing an increase in asthma in our children.

  Somerfield believe that emission reduction is correctly the focus of the transport policy and that a relaxation of delivery windows would support emission reduction.


  In considering the issues which affect our ability to serve our 15 million customers we would wish:

  1. Representations of national and local business on regional and local transport planning forums to aid understanding of operational issues and ensure an "even playing field" in the implementation of local regulations.

  2. Recognition of the necessity of car usage by rural communities served by stores in small towns—and thus avoiding further economic penalties on this section of the population.

  3. Introduction of policy measures rather than financial disincentives to control peak time congestion and therefore encourage more flexible working hours.

  4. Prevent local authorities from introducing vehicle size reductions in town centres.

  5. Introduce incentives to encourage investment in low noise, low emission vehicles.

September 1998

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