According to data sourced from the Office for National Statistics, the logistics and distribution sector across the Kent and Medway region of the UK has grown by 60.6% since 2016, with 2,000 jobs created over the same period and 3,600 businesses now operating in the sector.
Gravesham, Dartford, Medway, Maidstone and Swale are performing above the national average in terms of sector size, contributing to an industry that has seen a 48.1% increase in GVA countywide since 2000. That figure, as of 2018, stood at an estimated £2.3bn per year.
Gavin Cleary, CEO of Locate in Kent, explains there are several factors at play including the availability of lower cost industrial and commercial spaces on brownfield sites, increased housing development across the county and the strategic location of Kent and Medway as a gateway between London and Europe.
“Franzosini & Butti, Coyote Logistics UK Limited, TNT Express Limited and Amazon UK are some of the large operators that have chosen Kent & Medway since 2015, confirming our region as a prime location for logistics for nearly every sector,” said Cleary. “And we’re seeing no sign of that easing as the UK emerges from the pandemic with continued strong demand. We have a number of exciting new sites coming through between now and the end of 2023, with a significant number already pre-let.”
One of the biggest drivers for this success has been the rise of e-commerce and the continued shift towards online retail, with the Covid-19 pandemic only serving to accelerate that trend. And with prime locations in the sector’s Golden Triangle along the M1 corridor in the East Midlands at saturation point, Kent and Medway is one of the areas benefitting as couriers and distributors look elsewhere.
Companies working in the sector have also highlighted driver welfare and environmental concerns as important factors that are helping to increase the competitiveness of Kent and Medway as a key hub for the logistics and distribution sector.
Neil Cursons, Managing Director of Kent firm George Cursons which launched its new frozen foods processing and distribution plant for the UK hotel and catering trade at Manston, Thanet, in October, said: “Kent is a fantastic location for business. With its proximity to London and the Channel Ports and the sector’s drive to be more sustainable, the county has great potential to grow further in the logistics and distribution space.
“Dover is one of the main arrival points for frozen fish, but rather than those shipments going up north to be processed we chose to keep it here, saving on transport and cutting pollution. That’s the opportunity we saw in wanting to open this facility.
“We are looking at how we can expand on this further to help us meet regional demand. Our belief is that local is better. We can tap into existing supply chains and build from there.”
The following schemes are expected to launch by 2023, adding an estimated 12.5 million sq ft (1.16 million sq m) of additional space for the logistics and transportation sector, with Mid and North Kent the areas to benefit.
- 3.92 million sq ft (365,000 sq m) of logistics and manufacturing space at J4/M20 with Panattoni securing permission to transform the former Aylesford Newsprint Site.
- 5.2 million sq ft (483,000 sq m) of logistics, manufacturing, and energy production at the former Kingsnorth Power Station in Medway
- 500,000 sq ft (46,500 sq m) of warehouse and office space at Woodcut Farm in Maidstone, located off Junction 8 of the M20
- 800,000 sq ft (74,500 sq m) of warehouse and office space at Kingstanding in Tunbridge Wells
- 450,000 sq ft (42,000 sq m) of warehouse space at Powerhouse in Dartford
- 100,000 sq ft (9,250 sq m) of speculative warehouses at Goodmans in Dartford
- Enhanced production corridors, including Innovation Park Medway which once complete, will provide over one million sq ft (93,000 sq m) of space for high-value technology, advanced manufacturing, engineering, and knowledge-intensive businesses
Locate in Kent is the inward investment agency for Kent and Medway. Its aim is to encourage and support more businesses to set up and expand in the county. It offers a bespoke support to investors including market insights, property searches, advice on financial support available, and connections to local partners, suppliers and business networks.