UK Infrastructure Commission planned

10 February 2015

Infrastructure plans in the UK have been highlighted by the Labour Party which said it would set up an independent National Infrastructure Commission if it were in power following the general election in May.

It said that the commission would “stop long-term decisions being kicked into the long grass”.

The party’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said that as a draft Bill had already been published, this would ensure that plans could be fast-tracked through Parliament this year.

He also plans to publish for consultation a draft remit for the new Commission which sets out 10 national infrastructure goals which it said Britain should achieve over coming decades.

Labour set up the Armitt review of infrastructure planning in 2012, when it asked Sir John Armitt, the chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, to consider how long-term infrastructure decision-making, planning, delivery and finance could be radically improved.

A new draft remit for consultation, launched this week, said, “We are determined to drive forward UK infrastructure and the National Infrastructure Commission will ensure we build on, and do not go backwards on, existing plans.”

According to Robbie Owen, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, who advised the Armitt Review and drafted legislation which would create the National Infrastructure Commission, an independent commission with oversight of UK infrastructure investment policy could “change the landscape” of both the industry and the way that projects were delivered in the UK.

The new body would replace the UK Treasury's Infrastructure UK unit, and its priorities would include the provision of the infrastructure needed to guarantee 200,000 new homes per year by 2020.

Owen said, “The big decisions on infrastructure should, of course, be taken by our politicians, but it's simply unacceptable that governments carry on doing so without any real framework or proper process.

“Sir John's proposals will, at least, result in the UK properly planning for its infrastructure in a way that is properly founded and considered, and with much better public involvement and debate than we currently have ­– involvement and debate that is crucial if important but controversial schemes such as HS2 [high-speed rail line] are to command the widest possible support.”

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