Warehouse facilities management is a broad church covering many issues from safety to fire but a constant theme is to know what best to do when on-site expansion beckons, especially if it is an emergency rather than for predictable pressures. If an emergency, what are the best options?

Depending on the circumstances, it may make sense to look for available, shared user space at a nearby third party logistics provider (3PL) but the feasibility of this will partly depend on the extra cost issues of handling and transport from the offsite warehouse to one’s production site. However, more often than not the better choice would be a temporary structure on site, which come in a wide range of materials options, erection times and costs, with options to buy or hire. A rough rule of thumb says that if the hire period exceeds one year it would probably pay to buy rather than hire, which still allows the buyer to relocate the building, but what is the situation over planning permission?

There may be a widespread misconception that all temporary buildings are covered under permitted development rules but most large, temporary structures will need planning permission. In most genuine cases the local authorities concerned will grant retrospective permission without issue. If permission is not granted the authority could force the removal of the temporary building. Failure to comply with the removal order could result in prosecution and heavy fines.

In some circumstances you may not need planning permission for your building, as in, for example, if the structure has a floor space of less than 100 mt2 and it is not going to be used for more than 28 days. As a rule of thumb, if you plan on using your temporary building continuously for more than 28 days and is bigger than 100 mt2 be prepared to submit a planning application to your local authority. Other issues forcing the need for planning permission are: 1) if the building exceeds 25% of the total area available on your site, or in the case of warehouse or factory extensions is more than 25% of the size of the original building, 3) the temporary building comes closer than 5 mt to the boundary of your site, 4) the building significantly reduces the amount of land available for parking and/or manoeuvring for vehicles.

Given, however, that a planning application can take from 8 to 12 weeks, this can pose a problem if a temporary structure is needed urgently after, say, a fire. For this reason some businesses choose to proceed without planning permission. In this case it is possible to acquire retrospective planning permission if you can prove that a temporary building is needed on an emergency basis.

If recovery time issues are paramount then the temporary building industry offers a choice of structures. The quickest and cheapest is the fabric, flame retardant air dome which can withstand remarkably strong gales. Moving up the solidity scale, the next type of structure is the framesupported, fabric structures, and then finally prefabricated buildings assembled from wood, metal and composite panels. All these main types can last more than 20 years and share the advantage of being significantly cheaper than conventional buildings.