At a recent planning committee for a logistics scheme in London, we had no objections, which was remarkable given the urban character of the area, but the approval process wasn’t any less complex.

The scheme was subject to Design Review Panel scrutiny on two occasions. We were asked to make changes that would have compromised the industrial characteristics of the scheme by making it publicly accessible. The approach being taken was a focus on aesthetics at the expense of operational considerations.

The GLA is attempting to address such planning issues with a consultation on Industrial Land and Uses. And the draft guidance is part of the way there.

It aims to help local authorities and developers in the application of industrial policies in the London Plan, particularly those relating to co-location and intensification and get everyone working from the same script.

The consultation is hugely welcome, but if the results, which will be revealed later this year, aren’t right, it risks reducing industrial land supply further and limiting growth in the sector.

London’s population is growing and with it demand for housing. More housing means more demand for industrial space, particularly last-mile logistics. Modern lifestyles mean people want quick food and shopping deliveries to their homes, for example.

The draft guidance understandably focuses on future supply to meet increased demand and co-location and intensification opportunities on protected industrial sites to make the most of the land available.

However, neither are straightforward solutions to a persistent loss of industrial space at a time of growing demand, not only for residential development but also alternative critical infrastructure requirements such as data centres. Each solution has its own unique characteristics.

Among the welcomed proposals is introducing industrial design expertise on design review panels for co-location schemes. Having an expert involved in assessing these mixed use schemes when they come before local authorities can only be a good thing.

Often, co-location developments on industrial sites are proposed by residential developers. This can result in the provision of ground-floor industrial space only suited to workshops and lighter uses (Class E) that does not meet the demand and requirements of industrial and logistics (Class B2 and B8) businesses.

Frustratingly it is often designated industrial (Class B2 and B8) land that is being lost to accommodate co-location schemes.

With industrial expertise on a design panel, there is an opportunity to have an expert with an understanding of the sector who can critique the space and quickly identify if it’s suitably designed to accommodate in-demand uses like last-mile logistics.

However, this expertise on design panels should not be limited to co-location schemes.

Our recent experience in London demonstrates the lack of understanding of industrial uses and operational industrial-specific design requirements. Industrial space has to be designed with the end user’s operations in mind first, and then boundary treatments; frontages; public realm to respond positively to the surrounding context.

Having someone who understands industrial operations and operational needs as part of the planning approval process would be extremely helpful.

The approach to intensification is welcome if it serves to help meet additional demand however there is a danger in assuming wide spread intensification of designates sites is a given and this in turn will free up (industrial) land and development for non-industrial uses.

There isn’t an industrial developer who wouldn’t welcome the option to increase density on a site, but not every site can accommodate intensification, particularly if it means relying on multi-storey development.

We can’t find ourselves in a position where there is an over-reliance on intensification to support future supply. Intensification can and will play an important role in contributing to industrial supply, but there is a danger in assuming significant net gains in floorspace will be extensively achieved. There will be numerous redevelopment opportunities that cannot support intensified uses such as multistorey due to the surrounding urban context and proximity to sensitive non-industrial uses such as residential.

Co-location and intensification push the focus on freeing up industrial land for other uses. The guidance while welcome, should be more aspirational in terms of planning for future growth in the industrial and logistics sector. There is an over emphasis on how the land taken up by industrial uses can be reduced and consolidated in order to free up land for other non-industrial uses.

While we wait for the results of the consultation, the industrial policies in the London plan are coming under attack.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, has requested a review as the policies are holding up housing delivery.

It adds pressure to co-locate and intensify industrial uses and is a further cause for concern for the sector.

Gwyn Stubbings, Senior Planning Director, GLP