Commission backs new vision for relationship between the natural and built environments

Supporting the new Vision for the Built Environment.

Published: 22 Apr 2021

By: Rob Mallows

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Picture of a sunset over rolling green hills in Dorset

The National Infrastructure Commission has today endorsed a bold new vision for protecting and enhancing the UK’s built environment.

The Commission is one of more than 35 bodies which have put their names to Vision for the Built Environment, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, and the Environment Agency. The manifesto calls for a new long term plan for the management of the UK’s future built environment, at the heart of which is an approach that enables people and nature to flourish together for generations while maintaining the country’s economic prosperity.

New technologies have the potential to make this future vision a reality and allow for the management of the built environment in a way that better addresses the major environmental and economic challenges the country faces. Aligned to the government’s commitment to ‘build back better,’ Vision for the Built Environment calls for people and nature to be at the heart of how the existing built environment – including the country’s infrastructure – is designed, managed, built and used, to ensure that decisions taken now help to deliver better long term outcomes.

The Vision calls for more effective co-ordination of policy making and strategic planning to ensure the country is in the best position to successfully address challenges such as limiting and mitigating the impacts of climate change, reducing waste and the country’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. The built environment it says should be regarded as an integrated system of systems and managed accordingly to reduce its impact, with greater use of data and digital integration enabling solutions for more sustainable towns and cities.

This approach is well aligned with both the Commission’s existing core objectives and recent commitments, set out in our paper Natural capital and environmental net gain, to develop a set of principles that put environmental net gain and the protection of the country’s natural capital at the heart of the UK’s second National Infrastructure Assessment, expected in 2023. In 2020, the Commission’s Design Group identified Climate as one of four design principles for national infrastructure, identifying how infrastructure must help set the trajectory for the UK to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to adapt to climate change.

Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said, “Protecting the environment in which we live and work is essential to our future wellbeing and prosperity and this Vision highlights the role that well-designed and managed infrastructure can play in achieving that goal. Taking bolder steps to address climate change is already a core element of the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy. The challenge for providers and policy makers alike is to think ambitiously and creatively about how they can put the principles in this Vision into action and deliver real results”

The Vision for the Built Environment is available to read here.

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