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2020 infrastructure priorities set out in Wales

Words: Laura Edgar
5G / iStock-889321368

The National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) has outlined energy, transport and digital communications as issues to focus on in the coming year.

A call for evidence has been circulated to interested parties, asking them to submit their views and evidence on these issues. It is published in the NICW’s first annual report.

The non-statutory body, established in 2018 to make recommendations to Welsh ministers on the country’s infrastructure needs for the next five to 30 years, has spent its first year working to understand how changes in the economy, environment and technology would demand new forms of infrastructure.

The infrastructure plan is in its early stages, but decarbonisation, connectivity and resilience have been identified as themes that will run through the NICW’s work.

So far it has found that 4G and 5G mobile broadband might be the lowest-cost technology to provide superfast connections to some Welsh households. A greater proportion of public funds should be allocated to mobile rather than fixed broadband.

Views are being sought on how to rapidly improve the relationship between the energy grid in Wales and the future growth of renewable energy. This includes innovations in energy storage, electrical engineering and the planning system.

Evidence is also being solicited on the infrastructure barriers to the transition to zero-emission road transport and how they can be overcome, particularly in rural areas.

The NICW said that a plan for the country’s infrastructure would be set out by November 2021. It should enable the Welsh Government to develop an affordable strategy to deliver what is needed.

Interim chair of the NICW, John Lloyd Jones OBE, explained that the annual report sets out early thinking and identifies priorities for further investigation.

"Commissioners have been eager to engage a wide variety of users and providers of infrastructure to understand their aspirations and concerns for the future. Wales is a diverse country with differing needs. During the year we have visited North, Mid and South Wales to hear about the opportunities and challenges in different parts of the country. We are grateful to the many people who have helped us.”

Jones added that the commission “will not rush to make recommendations to Welsh ministers until we have found compelling evidence for infrastructure solution”.

Julie James, minister for housing and local government, said: “Developing infrastructure that contributes to growing our economy in a sustainable and responsible way is vital. Having declared a climate emergency earlier this year, we need to ensure our new infrastructure is fit for the long term – so that means considering low-carbon options. So I am pleased the commission has set decarbonisation, connectivity and resilience as themes that will permeate its work.”

The NICW's call for evidence is open until 27 March 2020.

The annual report and call for evidence can be found here on the Welsh Government website.

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