Europe’s largest parcel distribution hub - built a stone’s throw from the M1 in Hoyland - is set to officially open next week and welcome 1,400 employees. Reporter Lucy James was given a look behind the scenes..

HERMES - now known as Evri - built their state-of-the-art facility, dubbed ‘Colossus’, on fiercely fought over land which was allocated for development in Barnsley Council’s local plan development blueprint.

Given its former green belt status, campaigners blasted the mass development of the area - but planning permission was awarded and the giant £60m hub will be operational from Tuesday.

Spanning a colossal - hence the name - 363,000sq ft, it will be capable of shifting 1.3m parcels a day.

Gareth Shawcroft, manager of the hub, told the Chronicle: “Since Covid, online shopping has exploded - here we can have around 1,000 parcels an hour on each of the booms, going up to the sorter.

“Customers are able to get parcels much more quickly because of this hub, too - it’s a 24-hour site with around 300 people working shifts at a time.

“We could have a parcel in and out of the building in around three minutes so generally, parcels won’t be in the building for long at all.

“With us being based close to some of our customers, it also means there will be later ordering times, like with Next for example, their next-day delivery cut-off time is 11pm - with us being based here, and with the systems we have in place, it allows for people to receive their parcels as quickly as possible.”

Latest figures from Evri show that in December 2019, the company handled in excess of 49.1 million parcels in that one month alone - this was up from a total of 39.5 million parcels in the previous December.

The new hub has also opened up job opportunities in the area, subsequently boosting the local economy.

Gareth added: “The hub will open many opportunities for people in the local community - it’s opened up 1,400 jobs, and there will also be around 20 apprenticeship opportunities for those in higher education.

“Around 80 per cent of the employees are from the surrounding areas.

“It’s good for the community, and even the environment because some of those employees are people who were commuting further afield before, but they’re now cutting down on carbon emissions.

“We also have a higher percentage of female delivery drivers than average, with more than 40 per cent of our couriers being female.”

Evri has tried worked to make the new hub as eco-friendly as they can by adding solar panels to the roof of the building to generate electricity, collecting and using rain water, and planting 25,000 trees in their biodiversity area to reinforce some greenspace and encourage wildlife.

Bosses are keen to get involved in the community, with them already having visited locals primary schools, and met with councillors.

PR manager, Jacob Webb, said: “We’ve visited some local schools and have been working on some projects with them - we went and planted tree shrubs with them to encourage wildlife, like what we’ve done around the hub.

“We’re hoping to get some of the pupils of local schools into the hub at some point to give them a tour of the place, too.

“We’ve tried to involve the schools throughout the whole process, during the building stages of it, we gave them some recycled waste to make things with and do fun activities with.”

Martin de Lange, chief executive at Evri, added: “The online shopping boom shows no sign of slowing down.

“Our continued investment to strengthen our network and infrastructure across the UK, is laying the foundations for future growth, creating more employment opportunities and confirming our position as an industry leader.”