- Updated: 25 June 2020
David Hawkes, ICE Policy Manager
Northern Ireland’s (NI) ability to be globally competitive and to sustain its own economy depends on reliable and resilient infrastructure networks.
However, there are several issues with regard to infrastructure provision in NI, notably capacity in water and energy networks and a legacy of under-investment. Additionally, NI is behind GB when it comes to introducing policies to tackle climate change – a pressing need with a 2050 target to reach net-zero emissions.
YouGov polling conducted on behalf of ICE found that 84% of NI adults agreed that NI requires a national strategy for its infrastructure, while 86% believed that decisions on NI’s infrastructure requirements should be informed by an independent advisory body made up of industry experts.
ICE considers that there is a pressing need for the Executive to develop an infrastructure strategy and investment plan that will prioritise investment over a long time period in the areas of water, waste, energy, transport and communications, including mobile coverage and broadband.
ICE considers that this is best facilitated by establishing a panel of independent experts in the form of an advisory body to audit existing assets and determine what infrastructure requirements will be required to allow NI to improve its economic competitiveness and the wellbeing of its population while meeting its environmental ambitions.
- The Executive should articulate a clear vision for NI and establish an independent infrastructure advisory body to provide advice and recommendations on how best to prioritise long-term investment in NI’s infrastructure.
- The advice provided must be evidence based and long term in nature, recognising demographic challenges, including population projections as well as urban and rural needs, climate change, existing infrastructure asset condition and performance, cross-border collaboration, technological trends and productivity in the region. This advice should take a whole-life-benefits approach and be framed within a systems context.
- The advisory body should report to the Executive and suitable governance arrangements should be established that allow an independent advisory body to undertake long-term holistic needs assessments, updated on a rolling five-year basis. The Executive, in response, should establish and regularly update an infrastructure strategy for NI.
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