One in four local planning authorities restrict the development of logistics property, according to new research published by NAI Fuller Peiser. This is despite the fact that logistics is one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy.
Nationally, direct employ-ment in the sector accounts for four per cent of the total workforce. This rises to around seven per cent if the logistics functions of other industries are taken into account. In employment terms this puts logistics on a par with the construction industry and around half the size of the manufacturing sector.
Since 1995, the logistics sector has gained over 400,000 jobs while manufacturing has lost around 350,000.
Floorspace for logistics property is rising by an average of 3.5 million square metres a year while manufacturing lost 1.6 million square metres between 1998 and 2004 alone.
John Bowles, head of planning at NAI Fuller Peiser, said: "The growing demand for logistics floorspace is an outcome of economic demand, not a driver of it. By restricting logistics development in favour of other industrial uses, some Local Planning Authorities are hindering economic growth.'
The research shows that 24 per cent - a rise of 15 per cent from similar research five years ago - of LPAs have a p olicy to restrict the development of logistics property (B8).
NAI Fuller Peiser believes this may be largely due to the outdated perception that there is a lower quality of skills required for logistics jobs.
According to the firm, the best measure of skills is earnings. The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) shows that average gross weekly earnings for logistics are comfortably above the UK average and, most notably, above light industrial employment.
The survey found that 90 per cent of Local Planning Authorities do allocate sites specifically for light industrial uses (B1(c)) in their local plans.
Mr Bowles added: "The authorities are still largely restricting B8 use in favour of manufacturing or so-called 'light industrial' use. This may represent a misunderstanding on the part of the planners on the relative importance of logistics to the economy."
Tim Suffield, head of industrial agency in the Midlands at NAI Fuller Peiser, said: "While it is frustrating that LPA opinions have remained largely unchanged in the last five years with regards to encouraging B8 use, it is refreshing to see that some at least are becoming less restrictive with only ten per cent of respondents predicting further restrictions in the future."
There are also regional differentiations to emerge from the research. In the Southeast there was a clear majority of responding authorities in favour of restriction.
This comes as no surprise, as the planners in this area see 24-hour operation and traffic generation as the key issues affecting their policies. In comparison, LPAs in the Midlands and the North-west were more likely to actively encourage B8 property use.
Mr Suffield said: "We hope our study will raise awareness of the range of opportunities and employment types B8 land use can bring to communities."