The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has questioned whether Britain’s model of planning and prioritising infrastructure – as led by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) – 'is as effective as it could be'.
It said that following the publication of the first National Infrastructure Strategy late last year, ‘the time is right to review the current components of the process and consider what, if any, improvements could be made to best support the delivery of stable long-term decisions on infrastructure priorities’.
Among the issues it has raised in a new consultation are whether cost and affordability should constrain infrastructure advice given by the NIC to the Government and whether there should be parliamentary involvement in the infrastructure planning process, to better build cross-party consensus.
The ICE also pointedly referenced the delay in responding to the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment, published in 2018, asking what impact this had ‘and how it might be avoided in future’.
Paul Sheffield, ICE fellow and past president, said: ‘We all know the significant challenges we face in coming decades, to sustainably implement the complex infrastructure changes that are required to meet population growth, demographic shifts, imbalances in economic prosperity across the nation and, of course, decarbonising the economy.
‘Policymakers need to make decisions in a timely and effective way and these decisions must be founded on the best available evidence. Taking time to review whether our infrastructure planning systems are working is important – and I encourage all those interested in delivering a sustainable UK to engage with us and share their thoughts.’
The consultation also asks whether broadening the NIC’s scope from economic infrastructure, to include social infrastructure such as housing and green infrastructure, would help deliver better strategic planning outcomes.
The ICE said the consultation will feed into a final policy report, ‘which will offer thoughts to government and decision-makers ahead of the next round of planning later this year’.
It runs until midnight on 3 May and is open to ‘all civil engineers, infrastructure system experts, and those who share ICE’s aim of seeing the infrastructure system's role being maximised to deliver a more sustainable UK’.