In launching the ‘Planning for the future’ white paper, housing secretary Robert Jenrick set out how reforms would simplify the planning system and support recovery from the pandemic. But the white paper has nothing to say about the industrial and logistics sector.

Emma Andrews

While centrally-set, binding targets are proposed for housing delivery, there is no suggestion of setting targets for industrial and logistics development.

This is despite the fact that the British Property Federation estimates that 21 million sq ft of logistics space will be required each year based on population growth and the well-publicised challenges the sector faces in delivering larger national/regional distribution centres.

It is unclear why the white paper is silent.

Woman warehouse worker

Source: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

The National Planning Policy Framework provides strong policy support for delivering “a strong, responsive and competitive economy”. Yet the planning system has a deep-rooted inability to respond to the scale and location requirements of the sector. The white paper’s emphasis on use of local design guides and codes raises further concerns about how proposed planning reforms will support industrial and logistics development.

The glaring omission underlines the need to change perceptions of the sector’s role and importance to the economy and the quality of jobs it creates.

Tech-driven sector

The sector provides a range of pathways to work and is increasingly tech-driven, relying on a range of skills. Savills estimate the logistics sector now supports almost two million jobs and contributes £78bn gross value added to the economy.

Online sales are unlikely to drop back to pre-Covid levels and businesses remain focused on ensuring robust supply chains in response to the pandemic and Brexit.

The reforms that are set out in the white paper will not make it more difficult to bring industrial and logistics sites through the planning system; however, neither will they make it easier.

Emma Andrews is director of planning, London, at Savills