We’re convening an independent, expert-led commission to provide fresh thinking on the future of London’s industrial land.
London’s economy and operations depend in large part on the effective use of its industrial sites. Though the term ‘industrial’ is associated with manufacturing, construction and ‘dirtier’ activities such as waste, its functions are varied. Industrial land use can range from tech studios and advanced printing, to film studios and breweries. Industrial sites also play an important role in logistics, with freight consolidation sites enabling effective last-mile distribution of the goods on which the city depends. However, as London’s economy and population has grown, the demands on space have intensified, causing the need for industrial land to compete with housing, retail, mixed development and other uses.
Four decades ago, London’s industrial land was in oversupply, however in recent years the rate at which it has been converted has been far quicker than expected. Between 2010 and 2015, the release of industrial land was almost three times more than recommended. However, research for the Greater London Authority shows that there will be demand for industrial land up to 2041, as the logistics and service sectors continue to grow. The new London Plan addresses the need to provide sufficient industrial, logistics and related capacity through its policies. However, despite a strong case for protecting remaining industrial land, many argue that there needs to be a rethink. Several outer London boroughs, in particular, argue that too much of their land is given over to low-value, low-employment and often polluting activity that adds little to their local economies.
Various solutions have been proposed as the debate deepens and industrial land continues to diminish. The new London Plan proposes the intensification and consolidation of industrial activity as a way of delivering additional capacity and increasing housing supply. However, given the diversity of industrial activity, the ability for intensification and co-mixing to work across all industrial land is limited.
The pandemic has accelerated reflection on London’s future as well as more immediate actions, and we believe it is important that the role of industrial land is effectively addressed as part of this. The Commission therefore aims to explore the diverse and changing contemporary and potential future uses of industrial land and develop cross-sector recommendations on ways forward.
This Commission will explore questions including:
- What role does industrial land play in London’s economy – from jobs, to logistics, to sustainable city servicing. How has this changed and how is it likely to change in the future? How should we assess the trade-offs with other uses?
- What are the opportunities to intensify industrial land or combine it with other uses? What new models of intensification and multi-use are or could be, developed?
- How should industrial land planning policy be strengthened and reformed? What can local, regional and national government do, beyond planning policy, to support optimal use of industrial land?
We aim to publish a final report in late 2021. If you’d like to contribute to this project, please contact Nikita Quarshie.