With demand for warehousing space coming not only from logistics companies and manufacturers, but also increasingly from retailers it is not surprising that there is a shortage of available sites providing high quality space.
Proposals for giant warehouses in Sevington, near Ashford in Kent, which received planning approval in May of this year, are a good example of the efforts being made by developers to create high spec industrial space in the South East to meet business needs. The Sevington development scheme provides for two buildings containing 1.6 million and 1.5 million sq ft of floor space respectively, for Class B8 (storage and distribution) use.
While such developments can cause concern for local residents and interested third parties, it is important to bear in mind the potential benefits such developments can have for residents and local businesses.
New large scale developments create a significant number of new jobs for the area in which they are located. The Sevington development is expected to produce around 2,400 new jobs by the businesses that will ultimately occupy the site. The importance of creating new opportunities for workers in the local area is something which is hard for councillors to overlook when assessing whether or not new development sites should be approved.
Increased spending in the local area
The influx of new workers to the area results in more consumers for the services and products supplied by existing local businesses and provides an injection of consumer spending to encourage wider commercial growth.
As a condition of being granted permission to carry out developments, developers are often asked to contribute towards local amenities. These obligations are usually documented in Section 106 agreements, which are legal agreements between local authorities and developers. Section 106 agreements are utilised when it is considered that a development will have significant impacts on the local area that cannot be moderated by means of conditions attached to a planning decision.
For example, a new development may place extra pressure on the social, physical and economic infrastructure which already exists in a certain area. A planning obligation will aim to balance the pressure created by the new development with improvements to the surrounding area, ensuring that, where possible, the development will make a positive contribution to the local area and community.
The planning obligations imposed in a Section 106 agreement vary on a case by case basis but the most common obligations relate to the provision of public open space, affordable housing, education, highways and town centre improvements. The local authority will monitor the developer’s compliance with the planning obligations throughout the course of the development, at the cost of the developer.
By permitting developments councils are therefore able to raise funds for new and existing local amenities, as well as highways and other infrastructure improvements. As councils have a finite number of ways of raising funds, the ability to raise capital from developer contributions as opposed to other measures, such as raising council tax, is arguably of benefit to residents within the council’s remit.
Improved transport links and infrastructure
Councils can also impose obligations on a developer to carry out works to nearby public highways to mitigate the impact of the development on the local area and to improve access to the development itself. These obligations are documented in Section 278 agreements entered into between the developer and the council and often include items such as roundabouts, priority junctions, traffic lights, right turn lanes, improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, improvements to existing junctions and traffic calming measures.
The implementation of such measures can not only mitigate the impact of the development on public highways but improve the situation beyond that which existed before the development took place.
In relation to the Sevington development, the use of Section 278 agreements could be used to deal with the potential impact of traffic to and from the development site, both during and after the construction works. In addition, the Sevington development has coincided with proposals by Highways England to build a new junction on the M20 to reduce congestion around the Ashford area more generally.
The balancing act of weighing up the need for the creation of new warehouse and other commercial space against the concerns of local residents and interested third parties will no doubt continue to occupy local council planners. However, an appreciation of the benefits that developments can bring to residents and businesses in the local area should hopefully go some way to alleviating concerns.