The government’s call for evidence on ‘Freight, Logistics and the Planning System’, a consultation that opened in July, closed earlier this month and we must now await a government response in the fullness of time, whenever that might turn out to be.
The 78-page document submitted by the British Property Federation (BPF) in response to the call is at once uplifting and deeply depressing.
The positive reaction comes from the clarity and intelligence with which the BPF puts forward the interests not just of the property industry but society at large.
The BPF Industrial Committee, which compiled the response, diligently makes the link between effective planning for logistics and the social and environmental benefits that might result, through employment, decarbonisation and economic stimulus, among other outcomes.
The response also sets out 10 clear requests of government, and draws on more than 50 real-world examples of every shape and size to back up its arguments.
Less favourable emotions are triggered by the knowledge of the yawning gulf that separates what the document describes from the current state of reality. Since the coalition government of 2010 abolished Regional Spatial Strategies, just a couple of months after taking office, there has been a distinct lack of joined-up thinking on logistics among different local planning authorities.
As SEGRO chief executive David Sleath put it to me recently, the UK’s national logistics strategy is effectively determined by “which local authority is more amenable to some sheds being built than the next one”.
Sleath also highlighted how parochial this approach makes the UK look, when the major logistics occupiers are planning their networks not just regionally or nationally but internationally.
As is so often the case, industry is pacing far ahead of government, with the likes of SEGRO assembling a coherent national network for its larger clients in spite of, rather than with, the aid of central policymaking.
We find a similar story in the deepening links between logistics and sustainability, as detailed in this week’s Industrial & Logistics supplement.
We hear from Tritax Big Box head of asset management Petrina Austin on the increasing importance of environmental, social and governance considerations in the sector, and also learn how various warehouse developers are using timber to cut down the carbon footprint of buildings traditionally reliant on large quantities of concrete and steel.
Just recently, we reported on the difficulties that face warehouse owners trying to maximise the potential of their large-roofed assets for solar power generation. Again, this is an area where industry is making progress despite frustrating constraints, which vary from insufficient local grid capacity to planning policies that dictate how solar panels must be installed, with scant regard for where the sun sits in the sky.
Once again, I’m torn in terms of reaction to where we find ourselves. There’s a part of me that would like to applaud the progress of our industry. But I find it hard to clap with my head in my hands.