Modern economy requires plan for urban freight revolution

Sydney’s planning system will need a shake-up in order to cater to the growing demand for straight-to-consumer logistics, according to a research paper prepared by Macroplan and launched today by the Property Council of Australia.

The Property Council of Australia’s Western Sydney Director Ross Grove said the Planning for the urban freight revolution 11 key actions were vital for the incoming urban freight revolution and could make a contribution to the immediate needs of the freight and logistics industry.

“In the not too distant future we could see empty shops take on a new life as local distribution points, 24/7 delivery times extended and made permanent, and improved guidelines to account for more home deliveries in new developments,” Mr Grove said.

“Many of the habits we’ve picked up in lockdown are in fact accelerations of some of the trends we have experienced before the on-set of COVID: online shopping, the uber economy, click and collect and the home-delivery of our groceries.

“The nature of our consumption is such that we’re seeing a shift in the mixture of conventional retail, online order and delivery services. So, we need to ensure our planning system changes to reflect this reality.”

Mr Grove said long-term changes in the commercial landscape had left us with empty shopfronts with a potential to be repurposed as community distribution points.

“Reactivating these places for the new economy will take pressure off our existing supply of industrial land, which is presently in high demand,” he said.

“Changes to our employment zones framework are an important part of seeing this vision realised. Our current approach to zoning was made for a more traditional economy, and prohibitions on low-impact logistics in town centres are now holding back innovation in how businesses are permitted to serve their customers.

General Manager of Planning at Macroplan Daniela Vujic said a lack of land supply for freight and logistics uses in the Greater Sydney Region had resulted in a number of companies preferring other cities such as Melbourne where serviced land supply was available.

“Sydney is riddled with a lack of flexibility to use appropriate spaces, such as retail and commercial spaces for last mile delivery, handling and storage,” Ms Vujic said.

“Consumers have increasingly time-sensitive delivery expectations, and this means we need to create opportunities for a more localised distribution framework.

“We need to consider and design-in freight and logistics activities into our urban environments. Creating successful places includes designing for how an increasing number of deliveries will be made.

“This means we need to look at loading/unloading areas, electric vehicle charging, and the extension of 24/7 delivery arrangements where disruption to local communities is minimal.”

Ms Vujic said across the country our freight task was such that while there was growth in the number of trucks on the road, the number of lighter commercial vehicles was skyrocketing.

“There are now more than one million more light commercial vehicles on our road than there were twenty years ago and the COVID pandemic would have further added to this growth,” she said.

“If we don’t start providing for localised distribution points this number will continue its exponential growth, increasing both the number of kilometres travelled, and the cost of small-scale deliveries.

“Our planning system needs to modernise to prepare us for the changing global and consumer trends, and our research paper sets out a roadmap for making it happen.”

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