E-tail’s proliferation, accelerated further by the recent pandemic, has emphasised the need for logistic hubs within urban areas to meet business and consumer expectations.
However, with this growing demand comes planning challenges, notably how to best integrate logistics operations into the existing fabric of urbanised areas.
To meet this demand, innovative thinking is required by local planning authorities (LPAs). Whilst local plans play catch up, there is an opportunity for LPAs to take a proactive role in planning for urban logistics and land usage which creates employment and investment.
Thinking outside the box – an urban location for effective logistics
Historically, logistics hubs would be big sheds in out-of-town locations near motorway connections. Now though, there is increasing demand for last-mile logistics. This has led to a greater number of sites being brought forward for smaller logistics hubs located close to urban areas.
To solve the short-term demand, there needs to be an evolution in the approach LPAs take when considering planning for urban logistics. As the need for urban logistics increases, it is more important than ever for LPAs to consider alternative land uses in urban areas rather than sticking rigidly to their local plan designations.
LPAs need to apply planning balance and consider each opportunity ‘in the round’. When they are served with all the right evidence to prove there is a better use for land than the existing designation, a decision should be made to enable urban logistics sites to come forward
In the City of London, Amazon recently converted a section of a car park to operate an urban, last-mile logistics operation. Although its original allocated land use was for car parking, it wasn’t overly used. The LPA took an innovative approach, which allowed permission to be granted for a change of use to employment land.
Not only did this forward-thinking approach allow for an urban logistics site to be developed, it also saw a betterment in terms of highways impact as it resulted in less vehicle movements than its former use as a car park.
A bolder plan for employment land
In the long-term when considering planning for urban logistics, LPAs need to reconsider how employment land can be allocated. In the Queen’s Speech on May 11, it was confirmed that the government will seek to modernise the planning system via the planning bill. This must be a driving force in planning for employment land.
The industrial and logistics development sector should surely be at the heart of meeting the Government’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ and ‘Plan for Growth’, so fresh thinking and decisive action is required to change the process for the better in the long term.
To meet the growing demand, is it time LPAs were required to demonstrate that they have a five-year employment land supply, much like they do for housing?
If this can’t be demonstrated, then should the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ as referred to in paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework be applied and planning permission be granted? Or should regional plans return to be able to holistically plan for the logistics industry?
If anything is going to change, the funding and resourcing of local planning departments must be addressed to ensure they are able to operate effectively. This is a critical factor in ensuring the planning process is fit for purpose.
Innovative thinking required to evolve planning for urban logistics
The demand for logistics within urban areas is greater than ever before and will continue to increase. LPAs can enable the development of new logistics hubs to support local employment and investment, while ensuring the demands of businesses and consumers are met, by thinking creatively during the planning process about how land usage is classified.
Demand for urban logistics is driven by the expectation of and demand for efficient delivery networks. This is a socioeconomic change that is happening very quickly, and local plans need to evolve to become more flexible as the long-term overarching benefits of urban logistics are evidenced. This will make planning a smoother process.
With previous efforts to reform the planning process falling short of the mark, the UK government’s latest pledge must be the catalyst for change. This needs to happen to support job creation, investment and growth for the benefit of the entire UK economy, and logistics should be at the heart of it.
At Chancerygate, we have strengthened our team with the addition of an in-house development planning expert to assist in appraising and acquiring sites, securing planning permission and maximising the development potential of a site.
For more information on our development planning service, contact Carmelle Textor on t: 07570 690480 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org