UK infrastructure delays examined

By Sandy Guthrie15 April 2014

A lack of relevant information is being blamed for public opposition to large infrastructure projects in the UK, along with a failure to tackle residents’ legitimate concerns, and using the wrong decision-makers and spokespeople.

Research commissioned by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) looked at the reasons behind public opposition which resulted in large infrastructure projects – like new roads, rail, power generation and aviation capacity – being held up.

It found that the public needed to be convinced that tough choices on upgrading national infrastructure were necessary. The CBI said its poll of more than 1,000 members of the public by Ipsos MORI showed that the government and businesses needed to do a much better job of explaining the UK’s infrastructure investment needs, shifting the focus to why it mattered locally and what benefits projects would bring.

It revealed that 65% agreed that decisions should be delayed so that the public’s views could be heard properly, even if this meant that infrastructure weaknesses were not tackled when they need to be. That compared with only 24% who did not think decisions should be delayed.

The CBI said its research showed a disconnect between the need to invest in infrastructure to ensure the long-term success of the UK economy, to support businesses to grow and compete internationally and general public perception.

Nearly half of respondents said they were satisfied with the state of national infrastructure, with only a quarter (27%) dissatisfied. However, according to the World Economic Forum, the UK ranks only 28th in the world for the quality of infrastructure.

The UK government promised support for infrastructure in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget last month.

The CBI poll also found that people overwhelmingly trusted technical experts to make national infrastructure decisions over politicians – 64% versus 22%. But they also wanted their voice to be heard. When asked who they most trusted to represent local views about a project, 42% answered “me and people like me”.

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