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Out-of-date local plans are key barrier to meeting logistics sector needs

Words: Laura Edgar
Last mile logistics / Shutterstock_1026104380

More than half of local authorities in England think the lack of an up-to-date local plan is an obstacle to meeting the needs of the last-minute logistics sector.

The growth in demand of online shopping services with shorter delivery times has seen last mile logistics become a property market trend recently – and the planning system is not keeping up.

So says a report by planning consultancy Lichfields, which notes that the growth in demand for last mile logistics has occurred in areas where it is competing with a pressure for new housing, leading to strong logistics rental growth.

The traditional logistics supply chain model doesn’t apply to the last mile sector, so local authorities that haven’t previously considered themselves as logistics locations must tackle the challenges of planning for this sector.

Ross Lillico, associate director at Lichfields’ Newcastle office, said: “The scale of anticipated growth means that it is vitally important that local authorities plan appropriately to meet the needs of the sector or risk overheating commercial property markets and crowding out more cost-sensitive industrial occupiers in urban areas.”

Experts, the report says, expect to see a 40 per cent expansion in urban logistics facilities in the next four years. But a survey of local authorities finds that 84 per cent of participants say their local authority’s plan includes policies or objectives that accommodate the needs of the logistics centre. When it comes to last mile logistics, this falls to 27 per cent.

Going the Last Mile: Planning for Last Mile Logistics considers Amazon, which has expanded its services to include Prime Same Day and Prime Now. This has been supported by expansion of the company portfolio of smaller urban logistics centres (10,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet) in order to provide better access and improved delivery times to major towns and cities.

Feedback from respondents suggests that the allocation of general employment sites and a degree of policy flexibility are “sufficient” to cater for the needs of last mile logistics operators.

However, the report finds that the proportion (55 per cent) of local authorities who say they are well positioned to cater for last mile logistics is below the proportion (65 per cent) that has seen a growth in demand from the sector. Additionally, 58 per cent cite the lack of an up-to-date plan as a barrier to planning effectively for last mile logistics.

The planning consultancy says that as the sector continues to grow, a more coordinated, plan-led approach is required to guarantee that local authorities identify and respond to needs through the allocation and protection of appropriate sites. It cites the London Plan as an example that has done this.

Local authorities will need to tailor their sites to accommodate the variety of needs of the logistics chain, while at the same time recognising the crossover with transport and environmental strategies, urban congestion and air pollution issues.

The report can be found here on the Lichfields’ website.

* Last mile logistics refers to a stage within the logistics system, rather than the distance from the distribution centre to the customer.

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