Editor: It is not unprecedented for planning reforms to be part of the government’s economic stimulus package, but these have tended to focus on housing. Meanwhile, logistics, which last year contributed £124bn (gross value added) to the economy, and directly supported almost one million jobs, often gets sidelined.
Lockdown has highlighted the sector’s importance as the country relied on online retail while most shops were closed. But logistics is also integral to manufacturing and construction and, unlike housing, it creates substantial employment opportunities post-development.
There is a prime opportunity to get the sector the support it needs as part of our national infrastructure. The sector needs well-located land and quicker planning to support businesses and feed the economy. Planning can take three to five years – a timeframe that does not fit with maximising economic recovery and capitalising on a strong sector now.
The British Property Federation, backed by Tritax Symmetry and other industry leaders, has been campaigning to make developing logistics space easier – but further work is clearly required given that the ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper is silent on the sector.
In the meantime, a ministerial statement outlining the importance of logistics and need for councils to adequately plan for it would provide a clear message to inform planning decisions and show the government’s commitment to supporting the sector to play its full part in the economic recovery.
We need granular, zonal planning that supports wider planning reforms and uses a criteria-based policy giving a ‘presumption in favour’ of logistics development where key criteria are met.
Finally, we need a holistic approach to infrastructure planning, looking at a broad range of factors including funding and longer-term benefits to communities, rather than simply mitigating site-specific impacts.
Jonathan Dawes, planning director, Tritax Symmetry