The current warehousing shortage across London and the South East is causing unnecessary delays along the supply chain and holding back much-needed growth across the British economy. While the shortage is causing headaches for businesses of all sizes across Britain, the issue is by no means a new one.

Oliver Treneman

Oliver Treneman

Despite the demand for new space remaining steady in recent years, the logistics sector has been consistently let down by a stagnant national planning system. The sector has found itself in a situation of unsteady regional planning and investment, which currently favours red tape over trade and development.

This planning inertia has not been the case for large economies internationally. In China, where I was based for 21 years, bold and speculative infrastructure projects led by government were the order of the day. The Shanghai Yangshan Deepwater Port in Pudong is one such example. In the space of little more than 20 years, it has been transformed from a small cluster of tiny fishing villages into one of the largest logistics ports in the world – with a throughput of 22.8 million 20ft-equivalent units.

With our overseas competitors steaming ahead under the freedom of a concerted planning system, the UK logistics sector and property industry cannot afford to sit back and wait for a ‘government-led’ solution on warehousing. If we are to strengthen the resilience of the supply chain across the UK and get trade flowing reliably again, we must tackle the shortage with bold and innovative solutions.

shutterstock_1748372642_Terry Kent

Source: shutterstock / Terry Kent

With London’s centre of gravity for trade and logistics shifting further east, as it started to do in Docklands in the 1980s, we knew more could be done to capitalise on the eastward shift. After the infrastructure revitalisation at Stratford some years later, it became clear to us at DP World that there was an opportunity to continue in the same vein at London Gateway (pictured), on the north bank of the Thames at Stanford-le-Hope.

Targeted, large-scale investment at London Gateway allowed us both to benefit from and drive the logistical move further down the Thames, mirroring the success of large-scale infrastructure projects abroad. This had the added benefit of ensuring that our site had the space and connections to help create a powerhouse logistics hub in the lower Thames region and change what’s possible for British maritime trade.

By building first, and at scale, the logistics sector can develop a transport, manufacturing and trade hub in the heart of its chosen region under one roof, facilitating the rise of port-centric logistics. This ultimately results in end-to-end cost savings for partners and the ‘greening’ of supply chains and provides the much-needed warehousing space for manufacturers and logistics businesses alike.

Trade is the lifeblood of the global economy, and the model of building big at our ports has proven best to deal with supply chain and spacing needs both at home and abroad. If we are serious about solving the warehousing shortage in the long term, we cannot rely on the stagnant national planning system. Instead, we need a bold and active effort from industry that is unafraid to take on the challenges of a long-term, speculative project – which almost always pays off.

Oliver Treneman is park development director at DP World London Gateway