Planners remain in the dark ages

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One in four Local Planning Authorities restrict the development of logistics property, according to new research published by NAI Fuller Peiser. This is despite the fact that logistics is one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy.

Nationally, direct employment in the sector accounts for four per cent of the total workforce. This rises to around seven per cent if the logistics functions of other industries are taken into account. In employment terms, this puts logistics on a par with the construction industry and around half the size of the manufacturing sector.

Since 1995, the logistics sector has gained over 400,000 jobs while manufacturing has lost around 350,000. Floor space for logistics property is rising by an average of 3.5 million sq m a year while manufacturing lost 1.6 million sq m between 1998 and 2004 alone.

John Bowles, head of planning at NAI Fuller Peiser said: “The growing demand for logistics floor space is an outcome of economic demand, not a driver of it. By restricting logistics development in favour of other industrial uses, some Local Planning Authorities are hindering economic growth.”

The research shows that 24 per cent (a rise of 15 per cent from similar research five years ago) of LPAs have a policy to restrict the development of logistics property (B8).

The survey found that 90 per cent of Local Planning Authorities do allocate sites specifically for light industrial uses (B1(c)) in their local plans. Mr Bowles continued: “The authorities are still largely restricting B8 use in favour of manufacturing or so-called ‘light industrial’ use. This may represent a misunderstanding on the part of the planners on the relative importance of logistics to the economy.”

However, there is some cause for optimism to emerge from the research. 29 per cent of LPAs describe their policy as encouraging more development of logistics property (compared to 27 per cent in the survey taken five years ago). Steve Williams, head of industrial agency in the South East at NAI Fuller Peiser, added: “While it is frustrating that LPA opinions have remained largely unchanged in the last five years with regards to encouraging B8 use, it is refreshing to see that some at least are becoming less restrictive with only 10 per cent of respondents predicting further restrictions in the future.”

There are also regional differentiations emerging from the research. In the South East a majority of responding authorities favoured restriction.

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