Conservatives 2015: Commission to examine how infrastructure can support new homes

The government's new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will examine how 'key sectors of economic infrastructure', including road and rail transport, can 'support' housing development, it has been announced.

Motorways: will fall under Commission's remit
Motorways: will fall under Commission's remit

Chancellor George Osborne announced the establishment of the NIC in a speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester yesterday. The new body will be chaired by Tony Blair's former policy chief Lord Adonis.

Osborne said the NIC’s remit would be to work out "calmly and dispassionately what the country needs to build for its future" and to hold "any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver".

A statement issued alongside the speech said the new body would be "created immediately on an interim basis, and will later be put into statute" and would "deliver a long-term plan and assessment of national infrastructure needs early in each parliament".

The statement said the commission would provide an assessment of the UK’s infrastructure needs every five years, looking 30 years ahead and examining the evidence across all key sectors of economic infrastructure – including energy, roads, rail transport, ports and airports, water supply, waste, flood defences, digital and broadband. "As part of this work, it will consider how investment in these sectors can support housing development," it added.

The document said the NIC will start work immediately with an initial focus on:

  • improving the connectivity of the northern cities, including high speed rail (HS3) 

  • priorities for future large-scale investment in London’s public transport infrastructure

  • how to ensure investment in energy infrastructure can meet future demand

The commission will publish advice to the government on these issues before next year’s Budget and will also begin work on its national infrastructure assessment of requirements for the next 30 years, the statement added.

Elsewhere, the statement said that the NIC would "consult widely on its recommendations". It explained that where it looks at specific issues its work and evidence should, subject to legislation, feed directly into national policy statements, streamlining the planning process for major infrastructure projects. "Parliament’s role in the approval of planning policy will be unchanged," it made clear.

The government also said the NIC will "seek to promote knowledge of and debate on international best practice in the planning, financing and delivery of major infrastructure". 

The Treasury will consult shortly on the terms of reference for the NIC "and how it will advise government and go about its work", the statement added.

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