UK planning system stifling logistics growth

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The ability of the Government’s Industrial Strategy to address the country’s long-term economic challenges could be stifled by the planning system according to new research by planning consultants Turley.

For its Industrial Revolution report, Turley has taken a close look at the quality of employment land evidence used by local authorities to allocate land for business and make their Local Plans.

The research, which is based on a sample of 10 per cent of local authorities covering London, the South East, South West, the Midlands and the Northern regions, has focused specifically on logistics, one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy.

The research found major limitations and inconsistencies in the quality of evidence used for plan-making which will lead to the misallocation of land in relation to business needs and potentially impact on the competitiveness of places in attracting investment.

The report found that the needs of logistics business are not fully or consistently understood across local authorities, which in turn can affect the quality of policies and land allocations in Local Plans, ultimately impacting on businesses’ ability to grow.

In addition the employment land evidence often fails to provide clear recommendations for the retention or release of redundant employment land with the result that land previously used for industrial /logistics uses is being lost to other land uses in particular residential. Employment land evidence is currently based on a lack of documented and meaningful industry engagement, particularly with occupiers and operators who have a long-term view of their evolving business requirements in a location.

According to the report, these failings have resulted in a shortage of land for employment uses in key areas of the country such as Greater London and the West Midlands. These shortages of land exist as a result of the market outpacing planning policy and the failure of the planning system to respond to rapid change. In other areas of the country, land is allocated for industrial purposes but is no longer attractive to the market. Such land could potentially be released to accommodate other uses such as housing.

Based on the research, Turley is calling for a more pro-business planning system to support the forthcoming Industrial Strategy. This needs to start with a review by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) of the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG), which informs how evidence for plan-making is prepared and how land is allocated for business use.

Richard Laming, Senior Director at Turley said: “Our research highlights that the planning system is a blunt tool in responding to evolving business needs. Much could be done to improve the quality of the evidence that is used to inform strategic thinking on the volume, type and location of land that businesses require. Action is required now to ensure UK businesses are fully supported by the planning system as the country prepares to exit the EU and implement its Modern Industrial Strategy.”

Turley’s report contains 11 recommendations for improvement of planning policy guidance to better meet the needs of businesses. The Industrial Revolution report follows initial research released by Turley in November 2015 that explored the age of the evidence used to plan for business land needs and the implications arising. This survey of the information held by 326 local authorities across England found that half were relying on employment land evidence that pre-dates the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in 2012. Furthermore, some of the most economically dynamic areas of the country, including the Thames Valley and the Northern Powerhouse authorities, had the most dated evidence.


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