PM sets out plans for ‘infrastructure revolution’

PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has set out plans for a ‘New Deal’ which has been tipped to put jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the UK Government’s economic growth strategy.

£5 billion of capital investment projects are being brought forward as part of an ‘infrastructure revolution’. This Autumn the UK Government will publish a National Infrastructure Strategy designed to set a clear direction on core economic infrastructure, including energy networks, road and rail, flood defences and waste.

The Government also intends to bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Debbie Dore, chief executive at Association for Project Management (APM), said, “Whilst the Prime Minister’s proposals and emphasis on ‘build, build, build’ is welcome, this needs to be more than a one-off big spend. This should be both a sustainable and sustained approach, and have a strong focus on the requirements of successful project delivery, both in capacity and capability. ‘Sustainable’ means it needs to have a green thread running through it – focusing on measures that will embed ‘Net Zero’, whether that is investment in things like wind power or infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“It should also be ‘sustained’ in the sense of having both small as well as major projects; regional not just national; a planned pipeline that is ‘shovel relevant’ as well as’ shovel ready’; and finally not just physical infrastructure but broader transformation measures, including digital investment to underpin recovery. Sustained delivery is as important as speedy delivery. Finally, this commitment is welcome but must be backed by investment in the skillsets and training essential to underpin this. People deliver projects. Greater investment as well as a focus on project professionalism will be required to support the proper inception, delivery and completion of projects both now and in the future and this should be central to the National Infrastructure Strategy.”

Rob Oliver, chief executive of the Construction Equipment Association commented, “The promised escalation of investment in infrastructure is exactly what we called for in our recent letter to the Chancellor. Priming the construction sector will help avoid unnecessary redundancies and provide us with better roads, school and hospital buildings and more. The real prize is if this leads to the adoption of the newest technologies so that we do indeed ‘build back better’. CEA members have a great part to play in this with the new generation of environmentally friendly machines with their revolutionary digital systems that ensure that they are operated in the most efficient and productive way.

“The adoption of the newest technologies does, of course, require new investment from plant hire companies and contractors. Like most businesses they have been flattened by the Covid-19 emergency, so we also call for an imaginative approach from the Treasury to allow our customers to renew their plant and equipment with confidence. This can be done through a combination of additional tax allowances on capital expenditure and a scrappage scheme to add some ‘vroom’ to Project Speed.”

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) welcomed the PM’s vow to ‘build, build, build’ and reminded the Government of its ambition for a ‘green recovery’ – the building of homes, schools, hospitals, roads and digital connectivity in line with carbon net zero targets.

Coming the day after the launch of the RTPI’s campaign #PlantheWorldweNeed, RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills said, “We welcome this much-needed investment in our national building programme and infrastructure. Planners working in a stable planning system are well placed to drive this investment to ensure we begin constructing the homes, hospitals, schools, digital and transport infrastructure in the right places for communities whilst also achieving our national carbon net zero targets for a green recovery.

“Our Plan the World We Need campaign and report sets out how we can achieve the government’s ambitions to revitalise our communities and carbon net zero targets through supporting the existing world leading planning system and profession.”