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£2bn infrastructure funding gap in Kent

Words: Laura Edgar

A “chasm” between housing delivery and infrastructure provision is putting long-term growth in the south-east of England at risk, according to management services provider AECOM and Kent County Council.

In Kent and Medway, the organisations say they have identified a £2 billion funding gap between secured and expected funds and the infrastructure required to support the delivery of new homes between now and 2031.

Therefore, AECOM and Kent County Council, who insist the problem is region-wide, are calling for “fresh thinking” across the South-East to address its infrastructure and housing challenges and enable it to become “a functional economic region – a model similar to the Northern Powerhouse”.

Additionally, both organisations want to see a revised, more joined-up approach to growth, with new housing built in line with infrastructure investment and development.

The Kent and Medway Growth and Infrastructure Framework (GIF) (pdf) was prepared by AECOM for Kent County Council in partnership with Medway Council and Kent’s 12 district and borough councils.

It states that since the removal of Structure Plans and Regional Spatial Strategies five years ago, “there has been limited ability to plan at the strategic level for housing and jobs growth and the infrastructure needed to facilitate growth”, with local planning authorities instead relying on the duty to cooperate.

The GIF aims to bring together a clear picture over the local plan period to 2031 on housing (158,500 is identified as the number needed to meet planned growth) and the economic growth and infrastructure needed to support such growth as well as the cost of it.

The framework is a live document that is designed to be updated regularly.

Paul Carter CBE, leader, Kent County Council, said the GIF tells a “sobering story” about the challenges of delivering growth and gives the council the chance to do something about it.

“The growth challenge we face in Kent and Medway is significant – to deliver the approximately 160,000 homes and over 135,000 jobs that local authorities are planning across the area to 2031, there is a £6.74 billion bill for infrastructure, of which £2 billion is unfunded. The resulting infrastructure challenge is one that we face collectively across local authorities, the development industry, our communities and national government,” he said.

The solution, he continued, will not come from the public sector alone, and it is not expected to come from the industry.

The GIF contains 10 actions that aim to address the challenges faced - such as funding - by working with Medway Council and Kent district authorities to “explore the feasibility of producing a single Infrastructure Delivery Plan for Kent and Medway”.

Carter said: “We need real innovation in how we work with the private sector and government to get the most out of the resources we have, while introducing new ways of leveraging funding and capturing value from development. With the GIF and our 10-point action plan, we will be working with industry, public sector and communities to create the best opportunity for quality communities across Kent and Medway into the future.”

Tom Venables, director of design, planning & economics at AECOM, added: “Capitalising on the region’s unique relationship with London could help it become an influential economic powerhouse in its own right. For this to be achieved, the region must facilitate growth through new, joined-up approaches that connect housing provision with infrastructure investment. As a responsible, progressive council, Kent has recognised the scale of the challenge. Publication of the GIF is an important first step towards realising the county’s growth and economic potential.”