The government is changing the planning law to make it easier for local authorities to plan for sustainable economic development. The guidelines for this will be enshrined in its new Planning Policy Statement 4, which will supersede the previous national planning policy guidance for new employment development PPG4.
The draft revised guidance aims to encourage local authorities to plan effectively for economic growth and to achieve a proper balance between economic opportunities and environmental and social issues.
Dominic Morgan of Gazeley says: “There is much in this document which can be supported by the logistics industry, however, it does not address a number of long-term issues regarding acceptance that logistics creates investment and employment.
“Despite this new government advice difficulties will remain for the storage and distribution sector. It is unfortunately the case that some planning authorities continue to be prejudiced against the investment and new employment which logistics creates.”
Sara Jane Preston of Atisreal adds: “Logistics is one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy. Over the past fifteen years it has outpaced the relatively sluggish growth of the manufacturing sector overtaking it in 2000. Between 1998 and 2004 alone, the manufacturing sector in England and Wales lost 1.6 million square metres of factories while warehouses rose at an average of 3.5 m sq m per annum.
“Despite its importance, perceptions of logistics are far from being universally favourable. The industry has been criticised in the past for creating noisy, visually intrusive real estate; for generating large numbers of traffic movements; and not providing enough high quality jobs relative to their occupation of land.
“Over the past decade there has been some evidence that planners do not favour logistics property as a development option, particularly as an alternative to other industrial uses.”
The previous national policy guidance (PPG4) made very specific reference to the needs of logistics.
However, in the new PPS4 there is only a passing reference to distribution and storage in terms of identifying protecting and promoting key distribution networks.
Morgan says that Gazeley is urging the government to extend the reference to specify logistics facilities.
“Road, rail, air and canal networks cannot serve the needs of freight distribution without related transfer, handling and storage facilities. The national priority for such suitably located and designed facilities should be more clearly spelt out and encouraged by government.”
This is particularly pertinent given that the PPS highlights the growth in the number of jobs in distribution. In paragraph 23 it states: “Recent research projects show that the number of jobs in the distribution and service sectors will increase by up to 600,000 and two million respectively over the next ten years.
This increase in service sector employment will result in “an increase in demand for offices and higher density accommodation, whereas the increase in distribution will require locations with good strategic rail and road access”.
Morgan says Gazeley would welcome the retention of policy guidance along the lines of that already contained in PPG4 as this currently represents the only national planning guidance to local authorities on the issue of logistics. “The possible downside of not restricting single uses or use classes as advocated in the new document is that the unique requirements of logistics may be overlooked.”
Jonathan Smith of planning consultant RPS says the draft PPS4 in its current form is “frustrating in its wording”. He states that although B1 (office) is referred to B8 (storage and distribution) is not. “This does not assist with B8 location especially in terms of transport infrastructure.”
It is not just England that is having problems but also Scotland where new rules aimed at streamlining the planning process have thrown up an array of alarming scenarios. Tony Aitken of Colliers CRE explains: “Essentially all planning will come under one of three categories: major development, local development and that which requires no planning.
“A major development will have to outline precisely what is proposed, and the threshold will be all those schemes over 2 ha or 200,000 sq ft. Planning will have to be front loaded before the application stage and that will have a huge impact on the time period, even after all the work has been carried out there will be no guarantees and it could still be turned down.” Schemes in the local category will have all the same issues but should an application be refused then there will no longer be a right to appeal.