Amsterdam to ban rapid grocery delivery services from residential areas

Amsterdam is moving closer to becoming the first city in the Netherlands to ban rapid grocery delivery services from operating out of residential areas, the city announced on Wednesday. City administrators aim to establish an amended zoning plan that regulates the establishment of the distribution centers used by these services, known as dark stores.

If approved by the full city council, rapid delivery businesses will only be allowed to operate from business parks. It would require a dozen dark stores to close their doors, the city said.

The proposal was made in response to the nuisance caused by delivery workers who collect groceries from these mini-warehouses, or who stock them with goods. They sometimes are based in storefronts and other ground floor commercial locations in residential districts, negatively impacting people who live in the area who complain about the noise, double-parking, and blocked sidewalks.

For almost one and a half years, the municipality of Amsterdam has been working on addressing the issue of dark store establishments in the city. In January 2022, the city decided not to allow any new rapid delivery services or dark stores to open in Amsterdam for a year, to give the local government time to figure out how to deal with them. In the meantime, the city ordered several dark stores in residential areas to close because they did not fit into the zoning plan. The courts have confirmed several of those decisions.

Spatial Planning Alderman Reinier Van Dantzig said this proposal will “provide clarity to Amsterdam residents regarding the establishment of dark stores.” He wrote that this zoning plan will ensure that grocery delivery services do not lead to nuisances in residential areas. “This approach will create a more pleasant living environment for Amsterdammers”

All city districts, along with the residential districts of Weesp, have offered their advice on the matter. Despite some concerns, all administrative committees are in support of the initiative. The main criticism came from rapid delivery services, who contended that the proposal was too restrictive for their operations.

In the press release, the municipality expressed hope that the new zoning plan will make it clear to everyone that rapid grocery delivery services can only be sustainable when located in industrial areas. The measure will also put an end to the legal disputes concerning the establishment of dark stores, the municipality added.

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