'Operational landscapes' of logistics and evidence for governing spatial effects



transport & logistics, spatial planning, city regions




Over the last decades in Europe the consumption and production practices in Europe radically changed, the shift accelerated during and beyond the pandemic crisis. Direct impacts include a growing demand for logistics services and space to accommodate and support these functions. Logistics operators choose locations with a sectorial logic that permeates the organization of the system at different scales: At the large scale, there is a densification of logistics platforms and warehouses along infrastructures, forming specialized clusters connected to primary corridors for national and continental flows, and contributing to the definition of a specific operational landscape. A second step concerns the location close to the densest urban areas of hubs dedicated to the last mile. It seems necessary to broaden the current readings of the phenomenon, often resting on econometric and managerial dimensions that leave out the deep connection with the characters of the territories and the existing production spinnerets, and to explore the impacts that logistics settlements have in the territory. This renovated knowledge, will help administrators, civil servants and academics to reflect on the friction between the regional/global dimension of flows with the aim of trying to reconnect these and other sectorial instances within a broader design of territory and its governance.

The spatial context of reference of the present work (which moves from an ongoing study by the authors commissioned by the Province of Bergamo) is the Milanese urban region, with particular reference to the corridor of the plain between Milan, Bergamo and Brescia, which sees a dynamic settlement corridor along the recently (2014) opened highway. This is a complex and highly dynamic space with similarities to other European industrialized areas (Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands).

The settlement process of logistics lack of a integrated governance and, currently, there are no planning tools to regulate it. The revision of the regional toolbox of the Lombardy Region (integration of the Regional Territorial Plan) is underway to recover a decision-making balance between the regional, provincial and municipal levels, which today favors the municipal level.

The objective of this paper is the recognition of spatial scenarios of the logistic, bridging a new understanding of the logistics system with the current and potential governance tools. The goal is finding a new balance among spatial scales of settlement processes with the institutional scales of territorial government.

Lacking of a defined protocol from regional or national institutions, we point out three themes for the debate. They should help the definition of original forms of governance for the logistic. Our expected result is the definition of an operational model for the local administrations and an integrated evaluation able to representing common ground for negotiation of the different administrative levels and economic actors involved. The themes are:

- Definition. We want to frame what is meant by 'logistics' from the point of view of urban-territorial regulation, and more generally of the governance of the phenomena of territorialization of logistics settlements;

- Procedures of authorization and regulation in settlement processes. We clarify the role of the actors involved and the critical nodes of supra-local government, with special reference to the role of the different institutional levels (and the available urban planning tools);

- Evaluation: a proper assessment of the territorial externalities, positive and negative (socio-economic, landscape-environmental, infrastructural), produced by logistics settlements is a necessary step to make conscious governance choices in the sector. Therefore, we established a methodology of assessment, where we clarify who are the subjects called upon to carry it out and, what is their capacity to influence choices.

Author Biography

  • Prof. Mario Paris, University of Bergamo

    Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences

    Research Fellow


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