The fundamental tensions between residents’ quality of life and the growing demand for last mile delivery services are increasingly obvious, yet a satisfactory solution is increasingly elusive.

In July, Logistics Manager opined “It seems as though the sector is at an impasse – at the same time as local authorities and politicians try to discourage logistics from entering the cities and alternative land uses such as residential and offices are pushing logistics out, the need for a last mile solution increases exponentially as the residential population gets denser.”

Can we bridge the impasse?

The article highlighted a mixed-use residential and commercial development in Wembley, north-west London, which is attempting to find a solution to this increasingly evident tension.

Already an expanding sector, the increased use of home delivery services and online shopping during the coronavirus has super-charged demand for last-mile delivery.

The 85-acre development by Quintain generates its own ‘last mile’ demand. Jason Margrave, Quintain’s executive director of development, told Logistics Manager that an average retail plot yields 50 to 90 deliveries per day.

Mobility trends, such as declining car ownership in the development’s key demographic, play a role here; the effects of which the development company is working with students at the London School of Economics Cities Programme to ascertain.

On-site consolidation facilities

The joint research findings highlighted the role of on-site consolidation centres in managing the delivery of construction materials during the development phase and, later, for parcel storage and distribution facilities that can support last mile delivery requirements for local retailers and residents.

Margrave admits a development of the size of Wembley Park could not be run effectively without consolidation centres: ““Having the provision of a consolidation centre is invaluable to developers such as ourselves. The facility helps to streamline the distribution of materials through the supply chain and throughout our various developments thus promoting efficiency in that ‘final mile’ across large sites and minimising disruption to the environment and local community by significantly reducing vehicle movements.

“Our construction logistics hub, however, is where small deliveries are directed. We consolidate these items and take them on a ‘milk run’ around the estate as and when required. This includes everything from pipes to pallets of paper for our Wembley Park offices.”

Alleviating congestion and improving quality of life

Margrave highlights how the existing facilities and processes can be redeployed once construction is completed.

“It is this kind of longer-term facility that we are now investigating in order to alleviate congestion from postal and courier deliveries across the estate. It is expected that for every seven residential homes at Wembley Park, an average of one parcel will arrive on site per day – equating to an expected 1,214 deliveries a day upon the estate’s completion.

“Exactly how it will be run, whether we do it ourselves or work with a commercial operator, has yet to be decided but what we do know is that we know what the issues are and we can plan for them going forwards.”

What can Wembley Park teach us?

The concept of consolidation centres is not new, of course.  However, retrofitting onsite consolidation facilities and services to existing developments is often not wholly successful.  The Wembley Park development is interesting because it demonstrates the advantages of planning such facilities into the urban architecture from the outset.

William Bellman, a director at Colliers, told Logistics Manager: “When we get back to some sort of normality consumers’ expectations will remain high and there will be more deliveries going through the last mile with resultant increased need for space to facilitate that efficiently.

“Local authorities need to look for a holistic approach because this is coming down the road at speed and, without clear thinking, we are going to have issues.”

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