The need for a long-term approach to infrastructure planning has been reiterated to parliamentarians.
Ensuring the Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, due to be published alongside the Budget next month, sets out long-term, achievable goals is essential. That was key message sent to industry leaders, parliamentarians and peers last night at an event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) in the House of Commons.
The Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, attended and spoke about the Government’s commitment to “level up opportunities and prosperity across the country”. This would be achieved by “[putting] in place the roads, railways and fibre optic cables that will turbocharge the economy,” he said.
As well as recognising the economic and social benefits that infrastructure delivers, he also highlighted the role the built environment sector will play in helping the UK reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. The treasury minister pledged to make this target a reality by “accelerating investment in low carbon transport and renewable energy infrastructure to deliver clean and sustainable growth at home and abroad”.
He also confirmed the National Infrastructure Strategy would be published alongside an “upcoming fiscal event”. The Strategy will form the Government’s response to the recommendations set out in the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment.
Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, took the opportunity to reiterate the key asks of the Commission’s Assessment and its four tests. He said the Strategy must “embrace the spirit of long-term thinking that led to cross-party support for the Commission’s creation”. Adding to this, Sir John called for the Government’s plans to “establish clear goals and plans to achieve them, with explicit ownership of policy and projects by ministers so that they can be held truly accountable for delivering progress”.
He told ministers they should take their “golden moment of opportunity” to make firm decisions on developing sustainable infrastructure beyond HS2.
Nick Baveystock, ICE Director General, highlighted some of the pressing issues relating to infrastructure across the globe, including the impact of population growth and climate change. In doing so he outlined ICE’s recently launched Enabling Better Infrastructure programme, which looks to guide decision makers on strategic infrastructure planning.
With regards to climate change, Nick spoke about ICE’s flagship State of the Nation policy report for 2020, which will look at the role of infrastructure in helping the UK achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The APPGI will also be looking at this issue over the coming months.
Vicky Ford, Chair of the APPG on Infrastructure, highlighted the role of the cross-party group in bringing infrastructure to the top of the political agenda over the last year. The MP for Chelmsford outlined why it is crucial for parliamentarians from all parties to recognise the impact infrastructure has on the public before acknowledging the opportunity that the National Infrastructure Strategy provides.
In July last year, ICE produced a paper setting out what it believes should be in the Strategy. The publication followed an APPGI panel discussion earlier in the year, which brought together parliamentarians, decision-makers and industry to discuss what a good strategy might look like.
The APPG on Infrastructure will be continuing the conversation surrounding the National Infrastructure Strategy as we approach the Budget in March. ICE will also be looking at this issue in detail over the coming months, including assessing what the next steps should be once it is published.
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