Civil engineering leaders endorse Commission’s plan for UK’s long-term infrastructure

Published: 22 Jul 2019


A view over the Severn Bridge

A new policy paper from the professional body for civil engineers calls on the government to accept in full the recommendations made in the National Infrastructure Assessment, ahead of the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the expected publication of a National Infrastructure Strategy later this year.

In response, National Infrastructure Commission Chair Sir John Armitt today said the Institution of Civil Engineers’ report highlights that infrastructure renewal must be “near the top of the new Prime Minister’s to-do list.”

The paper has been published alongside a new survey which shows the public believe the government is failing to plan for future infrastructure needs. The poll for the ICE reveals 72 per cent of British adults agree that the government is not planning for future infrastructure needs, which will lead to problems in the future.

The National Infrastructure Assessment sets out the Commission’s formal advice on long-term priorities, and the government is required to provide a full and detailed response. It is expected to do so through a National Infrastructure Strategy in the autumn.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said:

“Infrastructure renewal must be near the top of the new Prime Minister’s to-do list.

“The National Infrastructure Assessment offers them an ambitious and affordable programme to give the UK the world-class infrastructure it needs, and we welcome the ICE’s endorsement of its recommendations in full.”

Sir John has challenged the government to ensure its National Infrastructure Strategy meets four tests for credibility:

  • A long term perspective – the strategy must look beyond the immediate spending review period and set out the government’s expectations for infrastructure funding and policy up to 2050;
  • Clear goals and plans to achieve them – where the government endorses an Assessment recommendation, this should be backed up with a specific plan, with clear deadlines and identified owners, to ensure the Commission can easily check progress;
  • A firm funding commitment – the government should commit to providing funding in line with the upper limit of the agreed guideline: 1.2% of GDP a year invested in infrastructure;
  • A genuine commitment to change – recommendations such as devolving funding for urban transport to cities and a national standard for flood resilience are fundamental policy changes, and the strategy needs to respond in the same spirit.

Launching their report, the ICE Director General Nick Baveystock said:

“The government has a rare and important opportunity to produce the first strategy of this kind and ensure that future infrastructure delivery meets the needs of our society. The UK needs a national strategy that takes a holistic, evidence-based approach to planning and delivering infrastructure to ensure we deliver the best outcomes.

“Whoever the new PM is must heed the warning from the public and make creating a National Infrastructure Strategy a top priority.”

The National Infrastructure Assessment

The Assessment provides a costed and achievable programme within a fiscal remit of 1 to 1.2% of GDP a year for infrastructure investment set by the government, within which all Assessment recommendations should be delivered. Among its main recommendations were:

  • Extending access to full fibre broadband services across the country, with government funding to enable provision in rural and remote communities;
  • Aiming for 50 per cent of the UK’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, with the government offering support for no more than one nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C between now and 2025;
  • Creating a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles through subsidies in areas where the private sector won’t deliver in the short term, and through councils allocating a portion of their parking spaces for future charging points;
  • Providing additional powers and £43billionof funding between now and 2040 to city leaders to develop strategies for improving their local transport networks and delivering new job opportunities and homes; and
  • Delivering a national resilience standard to protect communities against the risk of flooding, and setting water companies a target to halve the amount of water lost to leakages to ensure supplies are resilient against an increased risk of drought.

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