New London Architecture

NLA Expert Panel on Industrial and Logistics

Friday 06 August 2021

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Tom Alexander

Director
Aukett Swanke

There is a circular tension pulsing between the industrial and logistics sector’s demands and how London is learning to integrate them with its people, their workplaces, homes and ultimately their own demands for exactly the services being provided.
 
Industry has gradually been masked or even omitted across the city, often contained in patches, but it is breaking out as new sites and better proximities are sought. Blending these robust activities with working, living and even recreational areas is challenging and requires an honest understanding of its needs and realities, its impacts and benefits.
 
Perceptions can be misleading and there is a cry out from the industrial sector to governing authorities to have a greater understanding, or acceptance, of the basics of yards, operational volumes, usage timings, transport requirements and fundamentally the type of businesses that are seeking space in London. 
 
The industrial and logistics market has been buoyant for a number of years in the UK and globally, but like some other aspects of life it has seen an accelerated advance in its growth as a direct result of the pandemic. The distribution of food and parcels has seen a huge expansion, ten years of growth in ten months, whilst many of the industries supporting their production have also responded to this demand. 
 
London, both central and greater, has been in various stages of lockdown or constrained activities for work and leisure which resulted in a major shift to e-commerce, creating new jobs, pushing businesses to adapt and expand and creating more demand for industrial locations. 
 
Sites in London that are traditionally seen as just for one sector or another are scarce and have been bid over very competitively, often going to residential, but the values are balancing out requiring a fresh approach to their uses. New innovations are being developed, becoming part of wider city infrastructure strategies.
 
Co-location can provide a much sought-after mix of retained and enhanced industrial employment with the urgent need for living accommodation. It comes with challenges and requires a no compromise approach for both work and living spaces, but with sensitive urban integration of these needs, the glue of public realm and townscape can enable this as a benefit for all.
 
The sometimes dramatic redundancy of retail and office buildings may also offer new spaces for transformation into key industrial services. At the heart of all this tension and innovation must lie sustainability, protecting people and the city’s environment, exploring and challenging potential alignments with other current strategies such as the 15-minute city.
 
The NLA panel assembled is extremely well placed and qualified to robustly explore the challenges and opportunities. Each member outlined their respective areas of interest and views on the market, often passionate, sometimes frustrated and always well informed. We discussed a number of immediate issues and started to form ideas of the topics to address during our year on the panel, which will hopefully provide thought leadership, commentary on emerging policies and outputs to share.
 
Key pandemic challenges and opportunities
 
The panel aired views on these, captured in part above but there were themes that arose including the benefits, validity and demand for multi-level, urban intensification versus approaching the Green Belt, understanding the demand for B8 and B2 to complement a preference for E classes, policy pace trying to keep up with this urgently growing market, and ultimately that there is a great opportunity for London to work with the industry to secure an agile, healthy and enticing future that is both served by and supportive of the sector. 
 
Longer term implications for London
 
Panel members expressed a desire to inform and influence planning papers and policies at local and city-wide levels, suggesting a range of immediate, medium and long term goals for the industrial and logistics sector to continue to flourish and support our needs and environments. Transport and planning policies were seen as entwined and needing dual development. Technology will be driving further updates to the way industries inhabit and move through London, including transportation with the rise of electric mobility. 
 
Key issues to pursue
 
There were many aspects to this initial airing of views that suggested further review and exploration which will be defined over the coming weeks, including an urgent and therefore innovative site selection process, environmental strategies for the industry in a city, industrial perceptions and realities shared with authorities and communities, co-location with benefits and no compromise, and a dialogue with the industrial SPG.


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Tom Alexander

Director
Aukett Swanke


Industrial & Logistics

#NLAIndustrial

Programme Champions

Aukett Swanke
Prologis
Turley

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