Future land use requirements of logistics (2009)

Client: Foresight Directorate, Department of Innovation Universities and Skills

Period: October 2008 – September 2009

LRC researcher(s): A McKinnon


This research is contributing to a major study of ‘Land Use Futures’ being undertaken by the UK government’s Foresight Programme. This study is exploring ‘how land use in the UK could change over the next 50 years. It is assembling the ‘latest evidence and expert opinion across the environmental, economic and social science disciplines to identify where the greatest pressures on land could be and to identify practices which encourage valued and sustainable land use practices.’

Professor McKinnon is one of around thirty specialists commissioned to prepare reports on different aspects of land use. His brief is to review current trends in the land requirements of logistical activity and predict how they are likely to change over the next few decades.

This involves an analysis of official statistics on warehouse space and freight transport and a review of available literature on the subject. To date, around forty relevant papers and reports have been reviewed.
Government statistics reveal that warehouse floor space has grown rapidly over the past decade, in contrast to manufacturing floor space which has stagnated.

There has been extensive development of large distribution centres, particularly around motorway junctions in the English Midlands and this is forecast to continue. Warehousing is only one of several logistical activities occupying land. Taxonomy of logistics-related land-uses has been constructed.

Dominant factors likely to shape logistics future demand for land include:

  • Off-shoring of manufacturing and upstream supply chains
  • Increase in the relative cost of freight transport
  • Transfer of freight to more environmentally sustainable transport modes
  • Growth of online retailing
  • Advances in warehouse technology
  • Restructuring of the waste supply chain
  • Adaptation of logistics systems to the effects of climate change


Two posters have been prepared. The first reviews recent trends in warehouse development, while the second identifies a series of factors likely to influence the future land requirements of logistics. These will be available for downloading.

The results will be summarised in a final report to be published in the autumn of 2009.