Queen's Speech promises first National Infrastructure Strategy this autumn

A promise to publish the first National Infrastructure Strategy later this autumn, a bill to allow the High Speed Two (HS2) line between the West Midlands and Crewe and a white paper on further English devolution featured in today's Queen's Speech.

The Queen at the state opening of Parliament this morning. Pic: Getty Images
The Queen at the state opening of Parliament this morning. Pic: Getty Images

A government briefing note published alongside this morning's speech also included plans for an Environment Bill that would introduce "mandatory biodiversity protections into the planning system" and new legislation to "help accelerate the delivery of fast, reliable and secure broadband networks to millions of homes".

According to the briefing, ministers have promised to publish the long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy "later in the autumn".

The strategy will "set out a long-term vision to improve the nation’s digital, transport and energy infrastructure", covering "all areas of economic infrastructure including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance and delivery".

The strategy will include the government’s formal response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s July 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).

The NIA made a series of planning-related recommendations including a call for city mayors to produce "integrated strategies for transport, employment and housing" which would be supported by "substantial devolved funding".

It also recommended more powers for councils to capture land value uplift from new infrastructure, measures to improve infrastructure design, and called for the government to prepare a long term strategy for flood protection that included preventing "inappropriate housing development" in areas prone to flooding

The government this morning pledged to "introduce any legislation required to deliver plans set out in the infrastructure strategy in due course".

Meanwhile, the HS2 (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill would "provide the powers to build and operate the next stage of the High Speed", the briefing note said.

Known as Phase 2a of the route, it would run 36 miles from the Phase One route, at Fradley, near Lichfield, and connect to the West Coast Main Line south of Crewe.

The briefing says the bill would bring "the improved connectivity of HS2 to more cities in the north, sooner".

The main elements include the powers to "compulsorily acquire the land needed for the railway, construct the railway, and operate it" as well as "deemed planning permission to deliver the scheme". 

The details of planning "will be developed on a site-by-site basis in coordination with the local planning authority", it adds.

A review led by Doug Oakervee, announced in August, is considering HS2's benefits, impacts, affordability, deliverability and scope, the note added.

A further promise in the Queen's Speech is an English devolution white paper, which, according to the briefing note, will "provide further information on our offer for enhanced devolution across England, levelling up the powers between Mayoral Combined Authorities and increasing the number of mayors and doing more devolution deals".

It adds: "We have established City Region Mayors across England and devolved key powers over transport, planning and skills. We want to do more devolution deals, level up powers and invest further in infrastructure."

Ministers "remain committed to revitalised Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine strategies", it goes on to say.

In addition, the Queen's Speech includes plans for:

  • An Environment Bill to implement "mandatory biodiversity protections into the planning system, ensuring new houses aren’t built at the expense of nature". Councils would also have to produce new spatial "nature recovery strategies", under the new law.
  • New legislation to "help accelerate the delivery of fast, reliable and secure broadband networks to millions of homes" through the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill. This would aim to roll out gigabit (1,000 megabits per second)-capable broadband across the UK "to achieve nationwide coverage as soon as possible" as well as changing building regulations to "require all new build developments to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections".

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