INFRASTRUCTURE surrounding a new business park that will soon be home to a major online retailer will not cope with hundreds of cars visiting the site, an MP has warned.

Work is well underway on the new 94-acre site known as Symmetry Park, next to Lingfield Point in Darlington, which is expected to be occupied by Amazon later this year.

The Northern Echo understands the first phase of the site will be completed in September, however Amazon will not be allowed to occupy the building until a travel plan outlining how workers will get to and from the site is approved.

The Northern Echo:

Due to concerns over current infrastructure and the amount of cars that will be using the site, developers were asked to include details of provision for cycle parking, showering and changing facilities, and bus stop facilities as part of the application.

When planning permission was granted for the site back in 2018, Darlington Borough Council's planning department said the travel plan must be approved before Amazon can occupy the site.

Although the plan is expected to be approved, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman has urged Amazon to make sure it delivers on the travel plan and ensure workers can benefit from cycling to the site and the use of public transport.

However, she also warned that workers from nearby businesses in the town have approached her about concerns over the increased traffic from the Amazon site, claiming the infrastructure will not cope with such a large volume of traffic.

As part of the travel plan, proposals to reduce the number of workers who will use a car to get to the site include a car sharing scheme, travel awareness programmes, negotiating staff discounts for public transport or the provision of interest free loan rates for public transport tickets or bicycle purchases.

The Northern Echo:

A new cycle path with a pedestrian crossing and pedestrian island has been proposed to run alongside the site, whilst two bus services will operate near to the entrance of the distribution centre.

A total of 820 car parking spaces are proposed on site, which has been reduced from 900. This also includes 41 disabled spaces and provision for electric car charging docks.

100 covered cycle parking spaces and a motorcycle parking area, which will be able to accommodate 40 motorcycles, is also proposed.

Ms Chapman said: "It is all very well having a travel plan but Amazon need to show they are able to deliver it.

"It is realistic to expect people to use public transport and bicycles to get to work – we should be encouraging that more, but the right support needs to be in place.

"I have had businesses come to me with concerns about the infrastructure in the surrounding roads, it can't cope (if there are hundreds more cars)."

The building has been designed to accommodate approximately 1,000 warehouse staff and associated management on shift at one time at peak trading periods.

The Northern Echo:

The key shift changeover times are proposed to avoid the road network peak hours to reduce traffic impact on the roads.

It is proposed that the warehouse and associated management staff at the site will operate on a shift basis, with a night shift and a day shift and smaller other shifts as necessary.

The number of shift staff on site will vary throughout the year with peak staffing numbers, estimated at around 1,000 per shift, occurring in the run-up to Christmas in November and December.

For the remainder of the year the number of staff per shift will be reduced. The additional staff employed in peak periods are likely to be agency staff employed on a temporary basis who typically arrive by public transport or private bus.

Office, cleaning and security staff will also work in the building, working a range of shift patterns.

The travel plan states: "This Travel Plan is a long term management strategy which includes a package of measures that will be used to enable the occupier to promote more sustainable travel choices and reduce reliance on the car. For this development, focus will be on the occupier’s staff commuter travel to and from work.

"One of the main aims of the Travel Plan is to reduce the number of private cars travelling to and from the site by providing a platform for increased sharing of information about the availability of different modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport routes.

"It is proposed that different measures and incentives will be promoted to encourage staff to travel to work by other means than the private car."

Earlier this year, outline planning permission was submitted for the next phase of the business park, which could include restaurants, cafes, a pub, hotel, drive thru takeaways and a petrol station.

A number of proposals have been submitted as part of the application, which include splitting the remaining space into separate units, or constructing one individual warehouse which will be around 630,000 sq ft.

Ms Chapman has previously warned she had "questions to ask" about the working conditions at Amazon, but former council leader Stephen Harker said the company has told him the new site will be a "whole different employment experience".

He also said it would have been "foolish" for him to turn down the opportunity to bring the online retail giant to Darlington.

He said: "I understand this will be a much more modern facility, and a lot of it will be about robotics."