Delivery and Servicing Plans – a forgotten tool in the air quality toolbox

There is growing pressure on local authorities to improve air quality in our towns and cities, yet due to resource constraints, it is rare for them to enforce the use of Delivery and Servicing Plans (DSPs), which have the potential to be a highly effective tool in the fight against poor air quality, writes Dr Sarah Wixey, Associate Director at WYG.

As demand for delivery and servicing activity continues to grow, increased freight activity can create wide-reaching negative impacts by contributing to increased congestion, noise pollution and higher levels of harmful emissions.

A DSP is a logistics management tool that can be used to manage freight delivery and servicing activity at a site or a collection of sites within a local area. A DSP will cover all aspects of freight and servicing operations, from promoting efficiency in the procurement process and minimising duplication of supplier trips, to specifying the safe and practical access arrangements for vehicles serving the site.

DSPs are typically produced as part of a planning application for a new development that is likely to be over 1,000 sqm, or likely to generate significant movement of goods and services. Smaller developments can also voluntarily adopt a DSP to help manage and reduce vehicles to their site.

A DSP provides developers and site occupiers with a framework to ensure servicing freight activity is carried out as effectively and efficiently as possible. It is likely to focus on package delivery and collection and servicing activities including waste collection, maintenance, heating, air conditioning and lighting. It may also cover vehicle trips associated with general repairs, cleaning and catering provision.

Sustainable procurement

If an effective plan is implemented correctly, it can help organisations to reduce their operational costs and reduce vehicle movements to their site. This could be achieved by changing the way an organisation manages its business.

For example, it could use a sustainable procurement approach to improve suppliers’ performance, develop new facilities management operations, and co-ordinate activities across the organisation as well as between neighbouring organisations.

An effective plan should state how the site intends to minimise its impact on the operation of local highways and transport infrastructure. The DSP will outline the process of managing deliveries and the servicing requirements for the development and include a summary of the location of loading and unloading provision, along with the hours of servicing.

It should also incorporate a mixture of measures, including those targeted at procurement, delivery booking systems, consolidation, re-timing deliveries to take place outside of peak periods, use of cleaner modes (i.e. walking, cycling or zero emission vehicles), marketing and management.

A good DSP, if implemented correctly, can benefit both the site and the local area. The exact benefits will depend on the measures and how well they have been implemented but will typically include financial savings by reducing or consolidating deliveries, more reliable deliverables through scheduling booking slots, freed up staff time from managing deliveries for more productive tasks, improved safety for staff with fewer vehicle movements at peak times, work towards Corporate Social Responsibility goals, as well as meeting Ultra Low Emission Zone and forthcoming Clean Air Zone requirements.

A DSP can improve the quality of the environment by reducing congestion, collisions and emissions ultimately making the area more attractive to people who live, work and visit there.

Lack of consistency

Whilst this all sounds positive, in practice, there is a lack of consistency regarding the developments required to submit a DSP and the quality of the plans that are submitted. Sadly, even though DSPs are requested during the planning process, they are rarely implemented or enforced once a development is occupied.

Local authorities typically have Sustainable Travel Planning officers who work with developers and organisations to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport more often. But freight is often overlooked.

As freight activity increases, through both commercial and personal use, central government needs to provide local authorities with more funding to support the development of DSPs and, if required, cover the costs of enforcement.

Revisions should be made to planning policy to allow developer contributions to be used to cover the costs of monitoring and auditing DSPs after occupation.

Some local authorities have adopted something similar when it comes to monitoring and enforcing travel plans, and as a result have seen a positive move towards lower car usage. However, this monitoring is restricted to staff travel and does not include delivery and servicing trip movements.

The time has come for site occupiers to integrate DSPs within their company strategy or business plan and consider them as another business management tool in their toolbox.

Integrating DSPs within an organisation’s corporate culture will encourage a ‘business as usual’ approach to be adopted, and will support their widespread implementation.