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09/03/2017

Budget 2017: Reaction to infrastructure announcements

Words: Laura Edgar
Congestion / iStock

The Budget’s announcement about new money to tackle traffic pinch points in the North and the Midlands has been welcomed by industry professionals.

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget allocated £90 million for the North of England and £23 million for the Midlands to address “pinch points on the national road network”.

The money will come from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) announced in the Autumn Statement in November 2016.

Other declarations include £690 million for local authorities to get local transport networks moving and £16 million for a new 5G mobile technology hub.

Planners need to be at heart of infrastructure delivery

 

The RTPI has welcomed further detail to provide clarity on how the £23 billion infrastructure investment announced in November 2016 will be spent.

The institute said planners “will need to be at the heart of delivering major infrastructure investment, housing and in creating places to ensure that the UK’s productivity gap improves”.

“We urge government departments to work together to ensure infrastructure investment, including transport networks are considered in tandem with location of housing and in the context of the recently announced industrial strategy green paper.”

Infrastructure spend ‘backbone to regeneration’

 

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation (BPF), said the chancellor’s focus on increasing infrastructure spend will “act as the backbone to regeneration up and down the country,” opening sites for new housing and employment.

“This provides a huge vote of confidence for our industry, which supports most, if not all UK economic activity, encompassing a vast range of essential economic and social infrastructure. We provide the professionally managed rented homes in which many people live, the commercial space in which virtually all types of businesses operate and the shopping centres, restaurants, cinemas and more in which people spend leisure time.”

Expectations were not high

 

New money to tackle traffic pinch points in the North and The Midlands is a “step in the right direction” while the £690 million competition to address urban congestion is “especially welcome” because it puts the power with local authorities, according to John Hicks, director and head of government & public at infrastructure services firm AECOM.

“However, funds will only be available over time and its impact may be lost if the idea is not expedited once local institutions make the call.”

Hicks continued: “Knowing that this Spring Budget will be the last and that it falls a week or so before the prime minister is expected to trigger Article 50, expectations were not high. Nobody should, therefore, be too disappointed with a slightly less ambitious Budget compared to recent years. An Autumn Statement will require more scrutiny.”

Quick wins

 

“Productivity and prudence as expected,” said Adrian Hames, UK head of infrastructure planning at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.

With uncertainty over Brexit, he said a spending splurge was not expected, but “we did get some quick wins in technology and local transport improvements”.

“However, we can’t afford to lose sight of infrastructure’s longer-term importance in boosting productivity by connecting to new schools, to the digital economy and crucially to spurring the housing market in a period of increased uncertainty. The pressure has been put back on the industry to make this case in the housing and industrial strategy papers.”

Adonis welcomes 5G boost

 

Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, welcomed the government’s “positive” response to the commission’s recommendations on mobile connectivity and 5G.

“The commission’s central finding was that mobile connectivity has become a necessity. It is great to see that the government is ready to take an active role in ensuring services are available wherever we live, work and travel, and that our roads, railways and city centres are 5G-ready.”

But, said Adonis, the strategy on digital connectivity needs to be delivered coherently.

“A clear roadmap is required so that the proposed spending on fibre and connectivity pilots reflects the commission’s conclusions and delivers tangible benefits to consumers and businesses.”

More of the same

 

For Chris Dyer, head of professional services at Yotta, in terms of highways infrastructure, the Budget is “largely a case of more of the same”.

“News of ongoing investment in major road infrastructure projects is to be welcomed, of course, even if the £90 million Mr Hammond announced for the North and the £23 million for The Midlands was really a case of ‘putting more flesh on the bones’ of the £220 million fund already outlined in November to tackle pinch points on the national road network.”

However, this emphasis on infrastructure projects does not truly address the scale of the problem faced in maintaining existing infrastructure nationwide, he said.

“With Brexit likely to add costs and uncertainty into the mix, it is clear that we will continue to live in an age of austerity for some time to come. In this context, the idea that the chancellor is going to really ‘open the purse strings’ and deliver increased funds to councils across the country to spend on routine road maintenance remains little more than a pipe dream.”


Read more:

Budget 2017: Further devolution for London

Budget 2017: Transport funding announced for the Midlands and the North

Budget 2017: Reaction to devolution plans


Image credit | iStock

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