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Cross-sector approach to infrastructure required – report

Words: Laura Edgar

The National Needs Assessment (NNA) of UK infrastructure has been launched, outlining the approach to future infrastructure needs, which should involve multiple sectors and consider a range of drivers in the demand for it.

It was launched today (19 October) at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) by president Sir John Armitt, following 15 months of engaging with a range of interested parties, including industry, investors, legal and environmental, as well as politicians.

According to the NNA report, it provides the now-permanent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), for which Armitt is the interim deputy chair, with a 'blueprint' for its own national infrastructure assessment. This is due to be published in 2018.

Population growth will continue to put pressure on services, particularly those already under stress, such as the South-East, while demographic changes, climate change and economic trends will alter how infrastructure is used in the future, says the report.

The NNA makes a number of recommendations aimed at developing infrastructure that would position the UK as an “innovative global trading nation”.

It wants to see a nation with balanced economic growth, thriving communities that is a low carbon producer.

Britain's future infrastructure needs are intertwined, says the report. The NIA should take an “integrated cross-sectoral approach” to the UK’s future infrastructure needs. It should consider the “range of possible drivers of demand for infrastructure services and quantify policies that will manage and provide for those demands”.

Armitt said: “We project that the UK population is set to reach 75 million by 2050, and with that growth there will be an increasing and changing demand for infrastructure services. Users of infrastructure are increasingly conscious and vocal about the everyday challenges presented by these demands. We must deliver services that enable productivity, health and well-being and balanced economic growth.”

The assessment is not a list of projects, said Armitt, and the UK cannot afford to spend its way out of challenges by building more capacity.

“Technology, supported by the right policies, will enable new and existing infrastructure to be used much more efficiently.”

"The country,” added Armitt, needs a clear strategy, management and establishment of critical standards for our infrastructure to sustain and improve quality of life and business competitiveness in a modern and evolving world. If we don't, we will lose out on many opportunities, particularly in a post-Brexit economy."

With regard to housing, the report addresses the question of whether “housing should in fact be classified as infrastructure”. It recommends that major housing proposals “should be considered as part of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects programme”.

Additionally, it states that “adequately resourced” planning departments are “crucial” to the effective delivery of development. Allowing local authorities to set and vary planning fees in accordance with their area’s needs, and ensuring the cash raised can be spent on planning and development, “would help to boost the capacity of local planning authorities to properly plan for and manage housing delivery”.

The NNA can be found here.

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