New London Architecture

Can logistics deliver a greener, more sustainable recovery in the capital?

Friday 05 March 2021

Robin Woodbridge

Head of Capital Deployment
Prologis, UK

If London is to recover from the pandemic and remain competitive on the global stage, it will need sustainable local jobs and a cleaner, greener, last-mile delivery network: both things that industrial logistics can offer. 

At Prologis, £54 billion of goods flow through our UK warehouses each year – that’s the equivalent of 2.6% of the UK’s GDP and growing, thanks to increased demand fuelled by the pandemic. The logistics sector can help to strengthen local economies by bringing much needed jobs and investment into an area. Yet, despite this and an increased demand for home delivery ( which is unlikely to drop back to pre-COVID levels), the capital’s ability to hold goods close to where people live and work has been eroded over the past decade, leaving London facing a potential last-mile delivery crisis.

For every extra £1 billion spent online, an additional 900,000 square feet of logistics space is needed. Yet over 1,300 hectares of land earmarked for industrial and logistics development were lost in London between 2001 and 2015, and with the New London Plan placing pressure on boroughs to release more land for residential or mixed-use development, the situation is worsening. 

There’s now an urgent need for National and Local Government planning teams to refocus and work with developers on employment sites and consider new ideas. Strengthening local communities and serving London’s growing population in a sustainable way is going to require imagination: that could mean delivering new housing developments with their own micro-fulfilment centres or building multi-level logistics properties that deliver the floor space required.

A key benefit of locating logistics properties within easy reach of the households they need to serve is sustainability. A recent report by MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab for Prologis revealed that  carbon emissions generated by online shopping are 36% lower on average than those generated by individual customer visits to out-of-town shopping centres. By placing goods as close as possible to the end consumer, the report found that urban fulfilment centres can reduce carbon emissions by a further 50%, whilst speeding up delivery and reducing overall cost. These shorter, ‘last-mile’ delivery routes are also ideal for electric delivery vehicles, which reduce carbon emissions by 27% and are essential if targets around air quality are to be met. 

More industrial logistics property development in London would also create job opportunities for local people, at a time when the unemployment rate in London is 6.5% - 1.5% higher than the national average. The UK logistics sector now supports 2.6 million jobs and that number is rising due to the increase in demand for online deliveries and sophisticated logistics management systems which require skilled individuals to install and operate them.  Indeed, today’s modern logistics warehouses provide a wide variety of jobs, 25% of which are office based, in areas such as customer service and data analytics, as well as traditional warehouse roles.

Refocusing on industrial development could be an opportunity to build a better London and support the Capital’s economic recovery by delivering jobs, protecting the environment and ensuring new homes have access to the services they need.



Robin Woodbridge

Head of Capital Deployment
Prologis, UK


Industrial & Logistics

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