My family has lived directly behind this car park for decades, being woken by the revving of early morning delivery HGVs and breathing in the polluted air of the many idling SUVs that make their way down from Coombe to queue, engines always on, along the residential, suburban streets.
I know companies made it hard to complain, but I have managed to find a customer service email address and have sent Waitrose the below. It’s been a while since I’ve made a complaint like this, but the John Lewis partnership promote themselves as an ethical and sustainable business. There’s nothing ethical or sustainable about maintaining an enormous car park in a residential area. I will keep this blog updated with whatever updates I receive from them.
Email / Letter dated 2/07/2021
I’m afraid I wasn’t able to find an email address specifically for my local branch, so I am contacting you here in the hope that you will be able to liaise with the appropriate people.
My name is James Walsh and my family live on Howard Road, directly behind Waitrose New Malden’s car park. We have all shopped at your store for decades. My grandma died recently from Alzheimer’s, having lived here since the 1960s (before the Waitrose was a Waitrose, it was Coombe Town Hall).
Having returned to the area, I’m extremely concerned about the appropriateness of such a car park in the midst of both an air pollution and climate change emergency. We desperately need to transition away from private car use, yet Waitrose – a progressive and member-owned organisation – is happy to operate an enormous car park behind one of its local, residential-area stores.
I would have more sympathy if this was an out-of-town superstore – not much, but some – but it isn’t. People live directly behind and surrounding this car park, breathing in the fumes of its vehicles every day.
Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK today. Every day, I see queues of SUVs idling along Dukes Avenue, in your car park itself, and then along Kings Avenue and along the high street, pumping harmful emissions into the organs of local residents on a daily basis.
Some research also suggests a link between air pollution and dementia, though that has not been confirmed yet.
I would like access to Waitrose’s own assessments of the sustainability of this car park. Given all the above, maintaining a large car park in such a location is untenable given the John Lewis Partnership’s own stated ethical position on climate action, wellbeing, and social impact.
The car park should be closed as soon as possible, and I would like to see a plan and a timeline for when this will be achieved. Until then, here are a few things you can do:
1) Charge money for the car park. I believe it is currently free, which seems ludicrous in a climate emergency and in such a wealthy area. Any money raised from this could either be funnelled back into the company’s own sustainability efforts, or donated to the council to further improve walking and cycling options. Walking or cycling to Waitrose via either Kings or Dukes Avenue is a dangerous and unpleasant experience due to the large vehicles and idling drivers.
2) Convert a section of the car park, closest to the entrance to the store, to bike, mobility scooter, electric bike, electric scooter, and scooter storage. Cargo bikes are increasingly popular in south west London, and the parking for them is extremely limited.
3) Hire members of staff to manage the car park effectively, informing idling drivers that their behaviour is illegal and insisting they switch their engines off.
Once you’ve closed the car park, that space can become a wonderful community asset to New Malden and would draw more customers to your store. Here are some suggestions for what could then be done with the area:
1) An outdoor Waitrose cafe! With covered seating and grass and plants.
2) A park, with a play area for kids.
3) Adding to the above, secure and comprehensive bike parking, which could operate as a cycling hub for the whole of New Malden.
4) Still maintain a much smaller parking area for people with disabilities who are unable to use mobility scooters or hand cycles.
And that’s it! Your store will become a force for positive change, you’ll be doing your bit to fight climate change and air pollution, and you will attract more customers via more sustainable means.
Until these changes can be implemented: do you have an air quality monitor in the car park, and can the readings be accessed by the public? And if not, when do you intend to install one?
Thanks very much for reading. Keep me updated on your progress and plans, and let me know who specifically will be responsible for this and who I should be contacting directly in future.
Your website is quite a byzantine affair in terms of finding the correct email address and phone number for complaints, so I’d love a streamlined and simplified process in future.