The first weekend of trading at east Greenwich’s new Ikea store will coincide with a big match at Charlton Athletic’s ground, threatening serious traffic issues across the area.
Yesterday the Swedish flat-pack furniture giant confirmed it would open its doors on Thursday 7 February. Signage appeared on the building, on the site of the former “eco” Sainsbury’s supermarket, two weeks ago and stock is already being taken into the giant blue store.
Past openings have led to chaotic scenes – most notoriously in Edmonton, north London, where five people were taken to hospital in 2005 after a midnight opening went wrong.
The Charlton Champion understands both Ikea and Greenwich Council – which has wrapped itself in the store’s yellow and blue colours, allowing it to sponsor a sustainability prize at its business awards and run a promotional stand at a recent festival in Woolwich – are keen to avoid such scenes, with rumours of a “soft” opening ahead of the advertised date.
However, the first Saturday – always due to be a concern – coincides with a home match at The Valley, raising concerns that nearly five years after giving it planning permission in the face of opposition from local residents’ groups, neither the council nor Ikea have got to grips with the potential for the store to bring the area to a halt.
Charlton Athletic will play Southend United that day, a match which usually sees the away side bring a large number of supporters to The Valley, whose proximity to the Blackwall Tunnel and the A13 to the Essex coast usually make it an easy trip. The Shrimpers are managed by former Addicks favourite Chris Powell, a factor which could also bump up the home crowd.
There are mitigating factors – Southend fans could be routed via the tolled Dartford crossing, while attendances at The Valley have dropped significantly in recent years with fans alienated by Roland Duchatelet’s ownership. But matches still cause short-term traffic congestion, and the curiosity factor around the wildly popular furniture retailer’s debut in SE10 is likely to make 9 February a difficult day to get around the local area.
Rail services are due to run as normal on the Greenwich line that weekend.
Even after the opening weekend, there will still be fears about the potential for gridlock – withincidents of drivers being trapped in the car park of the chain’s Reading store. Issues have also been reported at its Exeter store.
Indeed, closer to home, long tailbacks regularly form inside the Bugsbys Way shopping parks as drivers queue to get out.
To mitigate this, Ikea has signed a legal agreement pledging to direct drivers to the west of the site “to address network capacity constraints on Peartree Way and Woolwich Road roundabout”, with £50,000 for new signage. (See the full legal agreement and travel plan.)
However, there are no signs yet of promised “improvements to pedestrian and cycling access links to the development from Westcombe Park and Charlton railway stations”, due to come from £750,000 to promote “travel by sustainable modes”. Work to widen Peartree Lane to create a southbound bus lane has started, though, and extra pedestrian/cycle crossings are being installed on Bugsby’s Way, which could address a promise to improve links from North Greenwich station. The store also pledged to pay £500,000 for extra bus services.
In a press release not sent to this website, Ikea promises to be “being a good neighbour and a true partner in the local community”, offering “a wide choice of affordable delivery services will be available, from 24-hour delivery for those living within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, to a Zedify bike courier service, competitively priced mini cabs and Hertz EV [electric] van hire”.
For the first 10 weeks the store is open, it will also have a special offer on home delivery for those who live within 40 minutes on public transport – although if pessimists’ predictions are true, that could be a very small area indeed on the opening weekend.
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