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Report: Welsh infrastructure commission remit should cover housing land supply

Words: Laura Edgar
M48 in Wales

The remit of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales should include the supply of land for strategically significant housing developments.

A report produced by the National Assembly for Wales’s economy, infrastructure and skills committee said the commission’s remit should also include supporting infrastructure alongside the economic and environmental infrastructure related to the supply of land for housing.

It notes that at a committee session in July 2016, Ken Skates, secretary for economy and infrastructure, said the commission would be an independent non-statutory organisation to provide expert and technical advice on a long-term strategy for investment in economic infrastructure, looking up to the 30 years ahead.

This would include Welsh roads and railways, energy supply and internet provision.

The report considers what the remit and objectives of the commission should be, how it should be operated and funded, and to what extent the commission’s work should influence Welsh Government decision-making.

The committee’s recommendations also include:

• The annual remit letter to the commission should include an indication of the scale of funding the Welsh Government expects to have available for infrastructure spending over the longest practical timescale.

• The commission should be established as a non-statutory body, but with the clear presumption that legislation will follow to move the commission to become a statutory independent body. The Welsh Government should assess how best to trigger the move to a statutory body.

• To enhance its independence, the commission should be based outside Cardiff and should not share a building with Welsh Government departments. However, to minimise costs, it should share accommodation with another public body in a value-for-money location.

Russell George, chair of the committee, said: “The cabinet secretary’s vision of an independent expert body which can depoliticise contentious decisions that have far-reaching consequences is compelling.

“To achieve that, the commission will need to be able to bring genuine technical expertise, coordination and a long-term view to the way we plan infrastructure in Wales.

“This is a considerable challenge – but an achievable one. We hope our recommendations will provide a basis for the swift establishment of a truly independent commission that – once strengthened by legislation – can ensure Wales develops the essential infrastructure we all rely on for a prosperous 21st century nation.”

George stressed the importance of relationships with key partners to ensure that its work is complementary to that done by existing organisations.

He added: “The successes of the organisation will be built on how well it can develop those relationships, with the UK National Infrastructure Commission, with Welsh ministers, with regional and local authorities and also with the Future Generations Commissioner and Natural Resources Wales.”

Roisin Willmott, director of RTPI Cymru, said the institute welcomed the report.

However, RTPI Cymru does not agree that the commission should leader on the location of strategic housing sites.

“We consider that there are other more appropriate mechanisms for this. However we do support the acknowledgement of the need for supporting infrastructure alongside the economic and environmental infrastructure for housing.”

In addition, RTPI Cymru is concerned that the report does not reference the Welsh Government’s National Development Framework (NDF), which is currently being formed, Willmott said.

“The NDF will provide an important framework for developing an effective coordinated strategy to plan needed infrastructure to support other development.”

RTPI Cymru’s response to the Welsh Government consultation on the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales can be viewed here (pdf).

The report can be found here (pdf).

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