Warehouse supply on government agenda – sort of
12 July 2023
Increasing the supply of sustainable warehouse space was front and centre of Baroness Scott of Bybrook, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ opening speech at the UKWA Awards for Excellence lunch this week as she acknowledged the economic contribution of the supply chain industry as a whole.
By Liza Helps, Property Editor Logistics Matters
She hailed the forthcoming Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill passing through parliament as a means to radically change the planning system which she said was “too slow” and “bureaucratic”. Little detail was mentioned in the speech about exactly how this would be achieved given parlous state of planning system in the UK after under investment for the best part of decade. (In September 2022, the Royal Town Planning Institute reported that local authority spending on planning has fallen by 43% since 2009/10, now representing just 0.45% of local government budgets. With a stripped-back planning system, less than half of applications were decided within statutory time limits in 2021 and back logs were reported in 89% of local authorities due to staff shortages.) Baroness Bybrook alluded to ‘digital tools’ and passing decisions up the planning food chain to secure faster outcomes.
Acknowledging the UKWA’s extensive research Case for Rooftop Solar Power in Warehousing highlighting the benefits and barriers to implement renewable power generation (from rooftop PVs) for warehouse occupiers and the community beyond, as well the UKWA’s letter to Ofgem pointing out that outdated processes were holding back growth for an industry increasingly dependent on automation and robotics, she welcomed UKWA chief executive Clare Bottle to join a sub group of the Solar Taskforce set up by parliament to bring together key players from government, industry, regulatory and other relevant organisations to drive forward the increases in rooftop and ground mount solar needed to meet the expectation of a fivefold increase in solar PV deployment (up to 70GW) by 2035.
She said she looked forward to input from the UKWA on the Ofgem reforms regarding the electricity connections process.
Currently developers and occupiers of warehouses can wait up to 7+ years before their PV arrays can be connected to the grid in full.
Guest speaker political columnist and comedian Ayesha Hazarika brought a more light hearted approach to the proceedings but that perhaps made her warning regarding the upcoming election more poignant. She noted that the business voice has been lost in Parliament and that businesses should interrogate, and stress test, all political promises proffered in the forthcoming months before backing any political party or individual.