16th October Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

The industry has welcomed the new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) with open arms.

The newly formed body, which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne, will be charged with offering an unbiased analysis of the UK’s infrastructure needs. They got to work immediately when news of the NIC was announced on 5 October and are led by Lord Andrew Adonis.

I have faith that an unbiased panel will be able to make decisions based on the UK’s needs as a whole, rather than doing it as a Conservative or Labour Party, which often makes it difficult to agree on such things. Taking the politics out of major infrastructure decisions will ensure the best decisions are made for everyone. Having a cross-party consensus and an independent chair will help us make major decisions as a nation, something that’s long been needed.

It will assess the UK’s infrastructure needs every five years, as well as looking ahead 30 years to assess future infrastructure requirements across all key sectors including, rail, roads, energy, water supply and waste. We need big improvements in both transport and energy systems to help the infrastructure sector boom.

With new opinions and a fresh perspective to assess infrastructure requirements to shake up the sector, it will hopefully get us out of the rut we have been stuck in, which in the past has failed to produce the roads, railways, airports, power stations and homes that we need.

Don Ward, chief executive of Constructing Excellence is extremely supportive of the new body, but thinks that its first priority should be housing.

As he said: “You can’t divorce housing from city and regional developments, if it’s about developing the economy for the 21st century, it has to look at the workforce too.”

It’s difficult to change and modernise the housing market, but we need to decide strategically where we’re going to put it. If we put it with the NIC at least we know there will be an independent commission looking at the problem, which is perhaps what is needed, as the government have failed to meet its needs in the past.

The NIC will be made up of around 25-30 permanent staff and I’m hoping they will make the bold decisions that the sector has been crying out for. I urge them to take the risks that people have always been too wary of. The building of the M25 and the Channel Tunnel were both highly protested at the time, just imagine where the country would be now if that hadn’t gone ahead?