Planning for success
Like the Greater London Authority, most councils have a planning policy that provides only nominal protection for employment land. Permitted residential development of office space, ‘no net loss’ (now ‘no net loss of floorspace’), the push for intensification and the promotion of mixed-use development on what was employment land all have consequences – a steady reduction in the availability of sites for new business, for growing businesses, of space to accommodate technological and economic change and therefore inevitable deindustrialisation.
Unlike America, Japan, Germany and France, indeed the rest of the world, deindustrialisation is seen in the UK as inevitable, and somehow a superior form of economy. But the “ongoing loss of jobs in manufacturing and industry is not inevitable but fuelled by policies that displace these industries”[i]. Having been the first to industrialise, UK Governments have for years been indolent champions of the planning requirements of business and kept us resolute on a course to retrace our steps.
Fresh out of university I had a job researching the decline of the British Motor industry at what was then Coventry (Lanchester) Polytechnic. A key component of its demise was the constraints on production, innovation and growth that occupying restricted sites, hemmed in by planning policy, placed on established British businesses compared to say Nissan’s far larger plant in Sunderland.
So for me, the British Property Federation’s report, ‘What warehousing, where’, launched yesterday in London (and Birmingham tomorrow) is a welcome call for a course correction. It asks for employment land to be promoted on a par with land for new homes; it rightly identifies that any sustainable development needs jobs too and a thriving community needs not just homes and social infrastructure, but new industries and land to put it on.
Technological change is transforming our high streets while creating the new industries of the future. With strong, modern, advocates like Sally Bruer (Tritax Big Box REIT), Ian Starling (Ocado) and Neil Impiazzi (Segro), the BPF report has backers who know what they are talking about and what these new industries require. They know that if business is not afforded the space it needs to operate, we will not prosper and that new sites and well-located warehousing is vital for e-commerce, innovation and logistics. The report is clear and the case studies inspiring, UK Government should recognise business needs in its NPPF, and every smart city or district council should leap at the chance to help.
Theo Dennison – Account Manager