In the Dutch landscape an irreversible trend of anesthesia. And that's the fault of Ecommerce† Because the Ecommerce distribution centers not only take up a lot of valuable space. They are also ugly and unimaginative. Resistance is increasing, municipalities are more likely to apply the brakes when granting permits. Are the already complicated Ecommerce distribution flows seriously compromised? Or are we dealing with the typical not-in-my-backyard syndrome?
First that last question. The fact is that consumers are contradictory creatures. On the one hand, we embrace the convenience of online shopping and we want more and more and faster. On the other hand, we prefer not to be confronted with the dark sides of Ecommerce. Because there are. It is not only the criticism of the endless sliding of boxes that is growing. There is also increasing resistance to the gray boxes that would pollute our landscape. In Brabant in particular, municipalities are becoming more cautious when it comes to the new construction of Ecommerce distribution centers.
The online consumer wants to be served quickly – and preferably even faster
The growth of Ecommerce is boisterous. Thanks to the convenience consumer. Successive corona measures have taken this even further in the past two years. And with the increasing online parcel orders, the number of Ecommerce distribution centers also grew. After all, those parcels must be delivered and delivered throughout the Netherlands in the shortest possible time. The overriding motto is: ordered today, tomorrow at home. You need an intricate network of distribution points for that. Consumers want to be served quickly. And preferably even faster.
As a result, the Ecommerce industry not only requires more and more distribution centers, the logistics halls also became larger. XXL distribution centers have sprung up like mushrooms in recent years. Since 2016, the space taken up by logistics real estate – read: distribution warehouses – has increased by more than thirty percent. And municipalities cheered with every permit granted. After all, such a logistics center generates prestige, activity and employment. That is more than the yield of an empty pasture.
Ecommerce distribution centers pollute our landscape and are under discussion
But the tide seems to be turning. According to a tour of municipalities by the FD (Financieele Dagblad), municipalities are repenting. Not spontaneously, but in response to the growing resistance of their inhabitants. 'Municipalities inhibit the arrival of distribution centers', headlined a recent FD report. The publication shows that for the time being these are municipalities in the south of the Netherlands. North Brabant and Limburg in particular have a problem. Because in both provinces the numbing the landscape grotesque shapes. Together they account for 43% of the total of Ecommerce distribution centers. Then we're talking about gray boxes of at least 40 thousand (!) square meters. Both Brabant and Limburgers are looking forward to this.
'Large distribution centers have come to be seen in a different light', says Ruud van Heugten, director of Greenport Venlo, in the FD. And further: 'There is a negative sentiment. There is no more enthusiasm for new plans.' He should know, because as a development company, Greenport Venlo has been committed to the economic development of the region for years. Ecommerce distribution centers have made an important contribution to this development in recent years. But that seems to be a thing of the past. Municipal politicians want to see the scarce available space filled in differently. With more quality and more attention to landscape values and sustainability.
Gluttons when it comes to space and energy
The increasing resistance to the XXL distribution centers is not an isolated incident. The jobs they provide do not have a very good reputation. After all, employees are often pitifully paid and the working conditions are tough. In addition, they consume energy and space. Just like the large format data centers that are needed to keep the internet accessible and to make online shopping possible in the first place. Think of the construction plans of Meta/Facebook in Zeewolde. There was also a lot of resistance to that. After fierce discussions, the municipality gave the green light, despite strong demonstrations. But national politics pulled the handbrake on. And it is very doubtful whether the complex of 250 football fields can be realized on a large scale.
Is there an alternative to the XXL Ecommerce distribution centers?
Let's be honest. Space is scarce in the Netherlands. And nature is increasingly pushed back. In 1924 a well-known poet, JC Bloem, already compared nature in the Netherlands with a piece of forest, the size of a newspaper. He should see the Netherlands now. Is it desirable to continue to fill the scarce space with landscape-polluting Ecommerce distribution centers and mega-data centers? Who knows may say. But as long as online shopping continues to grow and we want to be served at our beck and call and above all quickly, we cannot do without logistics facilities.
Luckily we still have the north.