Retail has long been a bellwether of town centre change, most recently with the increasing divergence of experience and convenience having a direct impact on property.
Why go outside when we can get our noodles in 10 minutes and our AA batteries within the hour? Even in extra-urban locations, when there is a credible alternative, we prefer the convenience of delivery, which is driving the need for ultra-urban logistics in our towns and cities.
The traditional functionality of sheds was once confined to the outer fringes of towns, in close connection to A-road and motorway networks, with little impact on urban life.
Now, however, supply needs to be dynamic and fit into the often-confined conditions of urban locations, sites and buildings that aren’t the typical bread and butter of industrial developers if it is to meet demand.
This doesn’t mean an increase in planning applications for miniature versions of the big boxes lining the M1 though.
Through increased occupier demand and the resultant interest in this market from institutional developers, there is both scope and appetite for well-planned, considerate schemes that fit into the urban landscape and complement surrounding uses, as well as increasing employment opportunities and supporting local businesses. Indeed, modern urban logistics schemes with good landscaping can work very effectively alongside urban uses, including residential, in a way that would have been impossible 15 years ago.
We should therefore expect an increasingly sensitive approach to design, as has been shown by our client Bloom’s activity in Fulham, Hackney, Brixton and Camberwell, as well as more flexible use of space.
This could come, in part, through the increase in basement logistics, such as that likely to come through at the Earl’s Court redevelopment and the 100% first-floor space at Bloom Fulham – both of which help in providing much-needed industrial floorspace in otherwise under-supplied areas.
As such, we expect to see a new wave of subtle industrial developments that make the best use of the character of existing buildings, including those that have received a significant capital injection on build costs to bring the landscaping, street furniture and public realm features in line with the standard we would expect to see in prime residential and office developments.
These developments will also see an increasing commitment to EV charging, PV panels, public transport and sustainable landscaping, all of which will enhance the urban landscape, support the integration of different uses, and reduce environmental impact.
Following London’s lead, we expect major regional cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol to be the next to see these changes, with smaller regional towns and cities to follow. A healthy supply of logistics space in urban centres is needed if they are to have a more sustainable, cleaner future.
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