Need to know: What demand for co-location of industrial and housing uses means for planning

The need for more homes and last-mile logistics space in central locations is prompting applications for the co-location of the two use classes. By Sophie Innes.

Industrial land: co-location can help meet housing and industrial need
Industrial land: co-location can help meet housing and industrial need

What is co-location?

Co-location is a relatively new concept for delivering industrial (particularly warehousing) uses alongside housing in order to overcome issues of land supply and increase the capacity of brownfield sites. Co-location seeks to either deliver additional storeys to existing industrial warehouses to provide residential dwellings or intensify industrial uses on sites so that some land can be given over to residential development.

What are the benefits of co-location?

It could meet both housing and industrial land needs in highly accessible locations where land is in short supply, particularly where industrial land is at risk of being pushed out of an accessible location for higher value uses. This could be a particular benefit for delivery firms, which can provide more deliveries if located closer to their customers. It can also maximise the efficiency of a site through increasing the density of development, when typically industrial sites would be low density.

What are the disadvantages of co-location?

It may be less appealing for future residents due to concerns about noise, vibration, air quality and so on. A co-location site may also only attract a limited number of industrial tenants if there are not already many of them on the site, as certain operations may have to be restricted in order for the site to meet residents’ needs too. Constraints might be applied with regards to access and servicing, goods lifts, yard space and working hours.

What are the challenges for developers wishing to pursue this type of development?

Each existing warehouse will have its own issues that will have an impact on how the housing above would be safely accessed. The provision of open space for residents and mitigating against the likely noise, air and other impacts from the industrial use will also have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The draft London Plan also requires new noise-sensitive developments to mitigate against existing uses. As such, where industrial uses already exist, the residential uses would need to mitigate against their impacts.

How does planning policy address co-location?

The NPPF mentions the need for planning policies/decisions to recognise and address the specific locational requirements of different sectors including storage and distribution operations, but co-location as a concept being pioneered in London. Examples such as the industrial/student housing scheme in Kings Cross, now approved and built, and light industrial/housing scheme at 415 Wick Lane in Hackney Wick, which gained planning permission in 2017, demonstrate that such schemes have already persuaded planning authorities that they meet identified housing and industrial needs while meeting LPA requirements.

However, co-location on its own is unlikely to make a significant contribution towards meeting the capital’s housing targets. Indeed, the recent London Plan Panel Report concluded that, whilst co-locating residential and social infrastructure alongside industrial uses on designated sites could make efficient use of land, it may prove difficult to satisfactorily achieve in many areas, with viability likely to be a key issue.

Sophie Innes is a planner at Lichfields

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