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Government urged to press ahead with infrastructure plans

Words: Laura Edgar
Heathrow Airport / iStock_000050552194

Lord Adonis and three business organisations have called on the government to progress a number of key infrastructure projects, including a third Heathrow runway, HS3 and flood defence infrastructure.

Speaking at the Institute of Civil Engineers, the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission said Britain’s “historic weakness” has been to under-invest in infrastructure.

Adonis said Brexit must not lead to “dither and delay” on the key infrastructure challenges facing the country.

“We need to press on with decisions on Heathrow, HS2 to the north of England, new electricity generating capacity and radical improvements to digital communications, to underpin jobs and economic growth.”

He has published a list of the 12 immediate priorities on which ministers must make progress during the next year.

“Rapid progress in the next year on these top 12 major projects and priorities is an acid test of the government’s commitment to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ which the chancellor, Philip Hammond, argued for last week.

“All of these have been agreed in principle, but require decisive action to get them moving in the new Parliament. They ought to be at the top of ministers’ in trays, and they ought not to linger there a day more than necessary.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have all come out in support of Adonis.

Dr Adam Marshall, director-general at the BCC, said both small and large infrastructure projects give real confidence to business communities across the UK.

“They ‘crowd in’ additional business investment, generate skilled jobs, and support stronger two-way trade with customers and suppliers all across the world. The best possible Brexit deal won’t be worth the paper it is written on if we don’t have the right infrastructure to support business growth here at home.”

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general at the CBI, said the government and the country itself has “golden opportunity to transform the backbone” of the UK.

“But this once-in-a-generation moment to fix a cornerstone of our economy can only be a success if words are turned into action, if pens are put down and diggers are started up. From Heathrow to HS2, we can build our way to a new era of growth, productivity and shared prosperity, so it’s absolutely vital the government doesn’t put the brakes on.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, added: “Day to day, small businesses rely particularly on a well-maintained local road network. For flagship projects, procurement should be opened up to small businesses. Taxpayers will want to know their money is backing the UK’s hardworking entrepreneurs. Improving broadband, delivering the Northern Powerhouse and investment in flood defences are all non-negotiable in this Parliament.”

The top 12 priorities are:

  1. A third runway at Heathrow, including a House of Commons vote on any finalised national policy statement for airport capacity in the south-east of England no later than May 2018.
  2. HS2: Introduce hybrid bill for phase 2a (Birmingham to Crewe) and publish route for phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds) by the end of July 2017.
  3. HS3: By the end of 2017 the government should publish a single integrated plan for the first phase.
  4. Crossrail 2: Publish a plan that has been agreed with the Mayor of London for the funding and phased construction.
  5. Eastern crossings of the River Thames, including taking a decision on planning permission for the Silvertown Tunnel by the end of October 2017.
  6. Flexible power systems, including publishing its plans for smart energy systems by September 2017.
  7. Plans for renewable energy at least to 2025 to be agreed by October 2017, and long-term goals to be published in the Autumn Budget.
  8. Decarbonisation of energy strategy to be published by October 2017.
  9. Hinkley Point C, including publishing a strategy for replacing services provided by the UK’s membership of Euratom to support delivery of the nuclear power station.
  10. Broadband and mobile – the government should publish its final broadband Universal Service Obligation decision by the end of 2017.
  11. 5G, including setting out a comprehensive plan for rolling it out.
  12. Water and flood defence infrastructure, including the government publishing its proposals for the management of surface water flooding by the end of 2017.

Image credit | iStock