Planning has been in the headlines all summer, with Create Streets founder Nicholas Boys Smith appointed as head of a new Office for Place and other reforms being blamed for the Conservatives’ loss of the Chesham & Amersham by-election.

Andy Gulliford

Andy Gulliford

The Office for Place is designed to embed ‘beauty’ into the planning system, but this concept did not prevent the new Planning Bill being seen as a potential pathway to swathes of Chilterns countryside being covered in homes.

I believe there are further problems ahead for the government unless it addresses the imbalance between changing lifestyles and a lack of planning for employment land.

With ecommerce having leaped by 10% to at least 30% of the UK’s retail market during the last year, CBRE has identified a series of factors that are driving ecommerce demand.

The UK’s high percentage of urban population, growing mobile sales, high credit card usage, digitally skilled population and good broadband coverage are reasons we are ahead of the rest of Europe in ecommerce.

The pandemic has shown us logistics are a crucial part of the UK’s national infrastructure

Planning specialist Turley says that, in 2020, the ratio of warehousing needed per home had risen to 73 sq ft from 69 sq ft in 2019, and suggests that in England alone almost 22m sq ft of warehousing each year would be needed to maintain this ratio.

Savills reports that in the medium term, supply chains are likely to shift from operating a just-in-time to a just-in-case model, meaning retailers will hold more inventory to satisfy growing demand, again requiring more warehouse space.

But all too often central government and local planning authorities do not understand the importance of warehousing to day-to-day living, its environmental credentials or its role in job creation. The misunderstandings deepen when we get down to the detail of circulation, loading, height and accessibility. So I was pleased to see the BPF publish its excellent Employment Land Manifesto in July, setting out a 10-point plan to support growth and explain how planning for employment land can be improved.

Among the good ideas were:

  • A presumption in favour of logistics development, with key criteria attached: easy access to the strategic highway network, a site capable of accommodating large-scale buildings and sites proven to suit a future occupier’s needs;
  • Logistics-friendly design codes – policymakers need to understand the functional requirements of the warehouse world;
  • The enforcement of Planning Policy Guidance for logistics more robustly, with Local Plan inspectors having a role in ensuring compliance;
  • The addition of a ’long-term growth’ subset within the ’growth’ zones outlined in the Planning Bill to accommodate large-scale regeneration sites or urban extensions; and
  • The introduction an ’Employment Land Delivery Test’ to ensure that a commensurate amount of employment – including warehouse – land is brought forward to counterbalance new housing supply.

There is currently a disconnect between the UK’s national planning system and the population’s lifestyle. The pandemic has shown us that logistics are a crucial part of the UK’s national infrastructure, facilitating everything from deliveries of drugs and PPE to everyday groceries.

Supply chains are complex and cover regional, national and even international geographies. They don’t respect local authority boundaries so a national approach and policies are required from government.

Andy Gulliford is chief operating office at SEGRO