The British Property Federation is having a spat with Government that its White Paper, Planning for the Future, focuses too much on housing, making too few proposals for land earmarked for job creation, writes Nick Potter, Partner and Head of Bishop & Sewell’s Commercial Property team.
So far, so understandable but surely isn’t any thin skinned government more likely to respond more favourably if interested parties approach ministers in a more conciliatory tone?
For instance, last month the BPF published its Employment Land Manifesto. They contend that Government must ensure enough warehouse space is built to sufficiently service new and growing communities.
They argue that planning law should introduce a presumption in favour of logistics development, and insist that local councils make separate allocations for warehousing, independent of other employment land needs.
As the trade magazine SHD Logistics highlighted here if the BPF gets its way, local plans would only be approved if they could demonstrate a sufficient supply of employment land to meet several years’ demand, “Demand for modern logistics property is outstripping supply, yet the Local Plan process is too slow to respond, needlessly slowing down high-growth sectors when their contribution to the economy and opportunities for new employment are vital to UK recovery.
“Planning reforms with a linear focus on housing will not be enough to create new, thriving and sustainable communities – the role of employment land in supporting new housing delivery must be better understood,” Melanie Leech, BPF’s Chief Executive, said.
“The Government must not waste untapped potential for our planning system to unlock considerable economic and social value, supporting its own agenda to level up the UK’s regions and build back better,” she concludes.
In fact, the BPF’s recommendations – taken from their six page manifesto – precisely outline what most commercial property would see as a rational way forward.
The BPF’s manifesto’s key proposals
- Introduce a presumption in favour of logistics development – the UK is currently experiencing accelerated demand for online shopping, growth in biotech and other high-tech manufacturing, as well as changes to supply chains from our new trading relationship with the EU and rest of the world. Demand for modern logistics property is outstripping supply, yet the Local Plan process is too slow to respond, needlessly slowing down high-growth sectors when their contribution to the economy and opportunities for new employment are vital to UK recovery.
- Improve cross-boundary planning to deliver strategic employment sites – the BPF sees a role for Mayoral Combined Authorities and/or LEPS in delivering strategic employment site allocations, which cross one or more boundaries between different local authorities, through new spatial planning powers.
- Reinforce logistics in Local Plans – the requirement set out in the Planning Practice Guidance for logistics to be assessed and planned for separately, from more traditional industrial uses, needs to be enforced more robustly.
- Establish industrial and logistics-friendly design codes – the National Model Design Code and Building Better Building Beautiful agenda are fundamental aspects of residential development but must not prejudice important industrial and logistics development that play a fundamental and growing role in meeting societal needs.
- Introduce an Employment Land Delivery Test – an Employment Land Delivery Test, similar to the Housing Delivery Test or Five-Year Housing Land requirement, would ensure that a commensurate amount of employment land is brought forward to counterbalance housing and that any employment land lost to other uses is delivered in the right locations.
- Include a fourth ‘long-term growth’ zone in the Planning White Paper’s zonal approach – currently, the Government’s planning system reforms propose to zone all land as either ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protection’. This approach will not work for large-scale regeneration sites, where the long-term delivery of ‘place’ requires continuing dialogue with communities. The BPF therefore suggests a sub-set of ‘growth’, called ‘long-term growth’.
- Introduce Town Centre Investment Zones – these are designated areas within which a broad range of local stakeholders gain enhanced powers and tax incentives that support town centre adaption, on the condition that they together have put forward a clear, coherent local plan for high street renewal.
I’ll conclude by quoting Melanie Leech again, “The Government must not waste untapped potential for our planning system to unlock considerable economic and social value, supporting its own agenda to level up the UK’s regions and build back better.
“Planning reforms with a linear focus on housing will not be enough to create new, thriving, and sustainable communities – the role of employment land in supporting new housing delivery must be better understood.”
All I’ll add is, why does an organisation not running for political office need a manifesto? And why will so many terrific ideas never see the light of day?
Because the government isn’t about to flagellate itself in public. It’s a shame, but I don’t think the government will change it’s course to satisfy the BPF.
You can read the BPF’s six page manifesto here.
If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please do get in contact. Nick Potter is a Solicitor in Bishop and Sewell’s Commercial Property team. Should you require any further advice or assistance, please contact us at [email protected] or call on +44 (0)20 7631 4141
The above is accurate as at 17 August 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.