Government infrastructure adviser calls for national spatial plan

The deputy chair of the government's advisory body on infrastructure yesterday called for a 'national spatial policy' to pull together the government's planning for industry, infrastructure and housing.

Sir John Armitt CBE
Sir John Armitt CBE

Speaking at a dinner in London, National Infrastructure Commission deputy chair Sir John Armitt CBE said that "spatial planning has to be the starting point" for coherent planning for industry, infrastructure and housing.

"To be effective, this cannot be piecemeal," he said. "If we have an industrial strategy for the country, why not a national spatial policy which identifies the key areas for development region by region".

New "statutory development authorities" would be needed to ensure the cross local authority boundary co-operation needed to capitalise on the housebuilding opportunities created by the infrastructure investment promised in the Budget, he said.

"Across the country current governance structures are not fit for purpose to meet these critical challenges," he said. Some form of regional structure was needed, "if not the re-establishment of the regional development agencies, then similar bodies combining local enterprise partnerships and county councils," he argued.

One of the reasons that such steps were needed, he said, was because current government policy would not be enough in itself to solve the shortage of affordable housing. Some of the proposals to tackle the shortage revealed in the Budget would be "potentially quite helpful", he said. "But most experts do see them as unlikely to succeed in meeting the real demand," he added.

On green belt, Armitt called for "potentially some release compensated with new designations". He added: "With a growing population, growing households, we must have an open mind on how best we can use land".

He said that the government’s continued indecision about whether to allow Heathrow Airport to expand "is a failure of political will, that dents our international reputation and ability to compete".

He also revealed that he had taken on the chairmanship of government adviser the Thames Estuary Growth Commission, a post previously held by Lord Heseltine. He said the commission had been asked to make recommendations "by next Spring".

Armitt was speaking at the National Infrastructure Planning Association dinner in London.

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