National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt has called for the UK to build a shared vision for infrastructure’s role in the economy, to unite people, mend fractures in society and build a true sense of community for millions of people.
Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure, Armitt said there was an urgent need for Britain to shape a new national and global identity based on optimism and confidence, with infrastructure at its heart.
“We need to set a clear direction for what sort of country we need to be. To make a realistic assessment of what we need to do to build a prosperous economy and inclusive society,” he said.
Armitt said that major infrastructure projects could be a unifying force for the UK, but warned of the dangers of decisions being “swayed by the gusts and eddies of political uncertainty” in Westminster politics. “Short term considerations will always rear their head,” he said. “Today taking priority over tomorrow and the urgent always shouting the loudest. We must ensure the rational, considered, researched view is heard,” Armitt told MPs.
"We need to set a clear direction for what sort of country we need to be and to make a realistic assessment of what we need to do to build a prosperous economy and inclusive society."
Sir John Armitt, National Infrastructure Commission chair
Last summer, the NIC published the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, setting out the steps it claimed the government needed to take to secure the best infrastructure for the UK from 2020 to 2050. Armitt challenged the government to ensure that its National Infrastructure Strategy, due to be announced by the chancellor this autumn, was sufficiently ambitious and robust to ensure that the right infrastructure is built to support a “secure national future” for the UK.
Armitt said: “Our National Infrastructure Assessment is crucial. It has never been more important to join together and plan for our long-term economic future. We hope that ministers will respond directly and positively to the creative vision it sets out and avoid the temptation to rethink its recommendations, or worst of all, offer only warm words.
“The government’s strategy must send a clear signal that it is serious about giving the UK the world-class infrastructure the economy will need up to 2050. They cannot simply fudge it, or just provide a list of what the government’s already doing. With the government’s strategy just months away, now is the time to make your voices heard.”
Armitt confirmed that the NIC would write to the chancellor setting out the tests which it believes the National Infrastructure Strategy must meet to be credible and urged the government to be bold in its approach.
That approach should include committing to devolved funding and powers over local transport to city leaders to help them develop integrated strategies for transport, employment and housing, Armitt said, as well as supporting a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles to achieve the target of all new car van sales being electric by 2030.
The National Infrastructure Strategy will provide the government’s formal response to the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment and is expected to be published alongside the Spending Review in the autumn.