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What next for freight and logistics in the planning system?

The government’s call for evidence on logistics and the planning system (which we wrote about here), closed earlier this month.  The call for evidence was heralded as a step in the right direction, with the Head of Cities and Infrastructure Policy at Logistics UK hoping it would act as a catalyst for planning reforms.

Now, stakeholders are calling for greater strategic planning to help deliver logistics space: 

  • The British Property Federation recommends setting up a framework for the government’s proposed National Freight Network which would also include wider supply chain concerns (such as highway infrastructure and lorry parking) in a bid to assist local authorities in planning for freight and logistics. 
  • The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation encourages decarbonization of the sector through a shift from road to rail usage.
  • The BPF also calls for the introduction of a more agile local plan process - so that developers are not curtailed by a rigid local plan cycle that prevents employment sites coming forward outside the plan cycle.

Stakeholders are agreed that proposals should increase flexibility in the planning system (to allow the logistics sector to adapt to an ever-changing market, such as in terms of online retail storage) and provide clarity on how cross-boundary matters are to be dealt with (to better handle the operational needs of a national sector amidst local authorities setting different policies for their individual geographical areas).

Therefore, whilst the call for evidence is encouraging, whether the government will heed these responses and prioritise the needs of logistics over other political priorities (such as how the planning system affects residential development, particularly in light of Labour’s recent claim that it will boost housebuilding) remains to be seen. A shift in attitude and increased understanding of the importance of logistics at both local and national policy level is required to ensure a resilient supply chain to keep pace with consumer demand. 

Logistics underpins every sector of the UK economy and it is vital that this is reflected in planning (Jonathan Walker, Head of Cities and Infrastructure Policy at Logistics UK)

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