Live blog: Reaction to the national infrastructure assessment

Live coverage of reaction to this week's publication of the National Infrastructure Commission's first ever national infrastructure assessment.

New infrastructure
New infrastructure

Robbie Owen, head of infrastructure at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: "The NIC has clearly worked hard given the fiscal remit the government has imposed to produce an assessment that is affordable and stands a good chance of being implemented, rather than one listing a series of pipe dreams. I think it will be taken seriously in Whitehall, particularly given the breadth of experience of the eight commissioners.  It does seem to be a truly national strategy, and not London-centred. 

"What it says about land value capture is quite significant. The assessment will be a pretty powerful voice in the future development of policy on that issue. It will also be interesting to see how the recommendation for nationally significant infrastructure projects to be subject to a design panel and to have design champions pans out."

Richard Guyatt, a partner at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, said: "Overall, the NIC's assessment of compulsory purchase and land value capture is welcomed. It is constructive in proposing reform but otherwise it does not look to rock the boat. There is no doubt that the current processes provide a good platform and fundamentally the CPO process and Compensation Code works reasonably well for all parties. That is not to say that it should not be reformed where reform is appropriate. Having a statutory requirement to carry out early appraisals and having a genuine system of advance (or, more properly named, on time) payments of compensation would greatly assist the land assembly process. This would also provide a level of fairness that is currently missing, particularly for businesses with limited land assets of value because of their holding fairly is a short-term leasehold. It should also be combined with the principle that relocation (rather than extinguishment of businesses) should be the standard requirement for promoters, if economically viable and appropriate. Authorities should be tested on their genuine attempts at assisting with relocation. If this happens there is no doubt that the process of compulsory acquisition would both be fairer and quicker; something advocated as being required for several years. It is also likely that it would ultimately cost less overall, albeit this would change the funding profile by requiring some upfront investment by the acquiring authority."

Mark Elsey, infrastructure partner at law firm Ashurst, said: "In looking ahead to 2050, the NIC clearly addresses a number of challenging areas including the ability of renewables and as yet unproven storage solutions to meet the base load capabilities offered by nuclear, the aspiration to roll out nationwide fibre optic broadband at a time when the significant investment in superfast broadband is on the point of being completed and the bet on the level of electric vehicle usage against a background of as yet unsolved vehicle charging solutions. While there will undoubtedly be differing views on these and other areas addressed by the NIC, the NIA at least provides a well-considered platform to facilitate debate and better inform decision making by the government in areas that will be key to the future competitiveness of the UK."

Ben Lewis, infrastructure and energy director at planning consultancy Barton Willmore, said: "The work undertaken by the Commission simply must be applauded.  It calls for decisive action, and an end to short-terminism and prevarication.  It tackles digital connectivity, energy, recycling, waste, transport, water and flood, and the creation of liveable cities within strong city regions.  The cross-sector approach for me is critical as all the future infrastructure needs of the UK are intrinsically linked and there is no single magic bullet.  This is what makes the NIA so ground-breaking, it has pulled all of these sectors together and put forward tested and costed recommendations that can all be delivered within the fiscal remit set.  The ball is now firmly in the Government’s court and we await their response.  One thing is for sure, though, they’ll need exceptional reasons to ignore the NIC’s recommendations. 

"The rigour which has been applied to the assessment is impressive and it is difficult to argue with the recommendations made. It must be remembered, however, that this is the first step. Forecasting over a 30 year time period is not an exact science and continual monitoring and review will be required as we move into the future. The NIA provides a strategy that identifies the objectives that the UK has to work towards. The NIA does make the transition to a low cost, low carbon energy system appear relatively straightforward, but without political will, it will never be achieved. And this is my concern, particularly when you consider the prevalence in the UK to argue that one technology is better than another and therefore offers the only solution. This has to end, the debate cannot be about which technology is best, it has to focus on collaboration between technologies (and the digital sector), and regular progress reviews, to create the flexible, responsive system the UK needs."

Neil Gibson, the president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), said: "We are pleased that the first national infrastructure assessment highlights the need for a longer strategic view over more than one electoral cycle, which can help to inspire confidence and growth.

"Sustainable funding must be key to this vision: as the report outlines, the government needs to recognise the interdependence of housing and infrastructure. Where there is new housing, there is a significant strain on transport and services, and this must be factored into a forward-thinking strategy through devolved funding. This needs underpinning by devolved, stable, long-term funding.

"We would have liked to have seen the emphasis on cities counter-balanced by a comparable view of the essential role rural areas can play in underpinning the economy. Our cities may well be key to driving regional growth, but they depend on their surrounding rural areas. The report does not recognise the value of rural enterprise nor the contribution that communities and businesses within the travel to work area can play. We encourage the National Infrastructure Commission to take a broader look at the role of rural productivity in generating economic growth."

John Acres, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: "The UK must take better and bolder infrastructure decisions to face the immense challenges and opportunities ahead. We need the ambition and scope the commission has set, but crucially we need to get delivery right.  Resourcing planning departments effectively underpins the delivery of almost every recommendation in the report, and is the only way we can get value for money from the proposed investment.

"Planners’ strategic skills in joining the dots – be it tackling climate change, increasing renewable energy output or transport planning - and building consensus can make a huge difference in ensuring investment is well spent. 

"We urge the commission to take these recommendations forward with planners at the top table, and to work with all concerned to ensure that Brexit will not adversely impact the skills base, professional standards and supply chain critical to making this vision a reality."

Kevin Gibbs, senior counsel and head of strategic planning at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, said: "We welcome the recommendations in the NIC report on genuinely devolved long term funding to improve connectivity and promote liveable cities. The report makes clear; strategies for housing and new infrastructure should be backed up by stable, substantial, devolved funding. Whilst in the past the government has prioritised transport between cities, the next wave of major upgrades should increase the focus on transport within cities. The NIC also finds that infrastructure to support public transport in growing and congested cities offers some of the highest returns for transport investment and therefore the priorities for transport investment should be on growing and congested urban areas and their catchments.

"Governance is particularly important and the NIC recommends that the appropriate authority to make decisions on how to invest devolved urban infrastructure funding will often be a mayoral combined authority, combined authority or unitary authority. Further, once funding is devolved to local authorities, central government should not have powers over how it is spent. Whilst combined authorities are not essential as a prerequisite to secure long term funding for infrastructure, the government is committed to the model and continues to devolve powers and financial freedoms to these authorities. The NIC makes a particular recommendation for new and larger long term funding mechanisms for transport for selected growth priority cities and these cities will often tally with the combined authorities across the country.

"If accepted by government, the NIC recommendations could assist in providing the platform for funding over many years particularly aimed at growing congested cities with clear governance frameworks in place to lead on joint strategic planning for improved connectivity and sustainable growth."

Jonathan White, UK head of infrastructure, building and construction at consultancy KPMG, said: "I’m impressed with a comprehensive review from the Commission that challenges government to take the necessary steps to ensure that the UK’s infrastructure is fit for purpose in the future. It identifies the need to prioritise the acceleration of a greener energy mix, building on the progress made in this area. This creates opportunities for business, investors and policymakers alike.

"Infrastructure investment has the ability to transform the economy, but it has undoubtedly been negatively affected by Brexit uncertainty. By taking on board the assessment’s recommendations, the government can send a signal that the UK is open for business and has a clear plan.

"Urbanisation and emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence are key trends for the future. By investing now Britain has the chance to be bold and become a world leader in these areas.

"There is also an opportunity to empower metro mayors and other local decision-makers in regard to infrastructure, helping to make the UK’s regions more prosperous and more attractive to investors.

"Finally, I’m pleased to see road pricing included in the assessment. This is a politically difficult area but there is an honest debate to be had about where the funding for the upgrade of Britain’s road infrastructure will come from."

Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said"Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new electricity generation so it’s no surprise that the commission is calling on the UK government to stop blocking new projects.

"Building a low-carbon energy system centred on renewables like solar and onshore wind would not only reduce consumer energy bills, it would also reflect public opinion which is strongly in favour of renewables. 

"The UK government should follow Scotland’s lead and aim to create an energy system high in renewables, harvesting the benefits of our clean, green energy resources."


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