Keith Howells met with local industry stakeholders on a visit to Yorkshire.
We also held a roundtable discussion with people from a range of organisations, including:
- UK Infrastructure Bank
- Sheffield City Council
- North Yorkshire County Council
- West Yorkshire Combined Authority
- Hull City Council
- Environment Agency
- Civil engineering practitioners and advisors from local businesses
The discussion covered plans and activities in the region to decarbonise transportation through public transport improvements and active travel schemes being implemented by the city/county councils and combined authorities, as well as the challenges of improving east-west rail links.
The differences between carbon neutrality and net zero were debated, as well as the need to simplify and scale up electric vehicle (EV) charging arrangements.
Protecting the Humber estuary region
We also discussed flooding around the Humber estuary.
Due to its economic importance and the scale of tidal and riverine flood risk, the Environment Agency and 12 local authorities are working in partnership to develop a strategy (Humber 2100+) that will support sustainable growth for the next 100 years.
There are over half a million people and tens of thousands of businesses within the area, which includes critical road, rail and energy infrastructure.
It is an important industrial area with its ports handling 14% of the UK’s trade.
The area is an internationally significant natural asset for people and wildlife, particularly for overwintering birds, and has valuable intertidal habitat.
Frustration with central government funding processes
A substantial part of the discussion focused on the local authorities’ ability to access central government funding.
With a significant number of funding 'pots' to bid for (around 16), each with its own rules and timetables, there is significant frustration at the local level with the level of effort needed to bid for funds and the limited timeframes within which these funds can be spent once secured.
This means that there is often insufficient time for schemes to be properly planned and developed.
Long delays in awards also lead to cost inflation and require additional funding requests to enable progress.
The UK Infrastructure Bank representative was keen to understand how the bank might be able to provide support going forward.
The discussion concluded with a debate on renewable energy and the fact that the existing transmission infrastructure in the region made it a good location for interconnectors with Europe and for feeding energy generated by offshore wind into the grid.
There was also discussion around the low priority afforded to tidal schemes when those which are close to centres of demand could be economic given that transmission and grid connection costs would be low.
An evening of celebration
Some 175 ICE members and guests attended the annual dinner at the Marriott Hotel.
Project awards, QUEST scholarships and presidential gifts were awarded to the deserving recipients, and it was a great opportunity for members in the region to meet and enjoy an evening of celebration.
A big thank you to Steena Nasapen-Watson, ICE regional director, and Kate Lloyd (who will be providing maternity cover for Steena), as well as to Bryan Penny, vice-chair of the Regional Committee, for stepping in at the last minute to make the opening address at the dinner, and to the other Regional Committee members for their support during my visit.
Thanks also to all those who helped with the arrangements