Infrastructure News

‘Lengthy delays’ to infrastructure policy is impacting project delivery, NIC design chair says


“Lengthy delays” to infrastructure policy updates are having a negative impact on project delivery, according to National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) design group chair Sadie Morgan.

Morgan – who is also a founding director of architecture practice dRMM– sets out her concerns about delays to National Policy Statements in a letter to levelling up minister Lucy Frazer.

National Policy Statements are produced by government. They give reasons for the policy set out in the statement, and must include an explanation of how the policy takes account of government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

The statements set out the government’s objectives for the development of nationally significant infrastructure in a particular sector.

The government has committed to updating statements in relation to energy, transport and water resources during 2023.

However, Morgan points out that “there have been lengthy delays to publication of updated statements across infrastructure sectors and the Design Group is concerned about the impact this is having on delivery”.

She adds: “Getting major infrastructure projects delivered on time is complex and challenging.

“National Policy Statements, which set the strategic priorities for the development of key infrastructure, and provide the legal framework for planning decisions, play a vital role in providing policy certainty.”

Morgan also calls for policy statements to include explicit reference to the importance of good design.

She adds that considering “design properly will support the government’s ambition to speed up delivery and maximise value”, de-risking projects by improving community engagement and reducing likelihood of appeals, and by securing wider social outcomes from investment.

Concerns that current National Policy Statements are outdated have been raised on several occasions during the last year as most of them were set before the government committed to net zero carbon emission targets.

Last year, a group of NGOs wrote to aviation minister Robert Courts calling on the government to withdraw its policy support for airport expansion, pending a review of the policy statement.

The government’s National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN) has also come under scrutiny.

Earlier this year, Transport Action Network (TAN) brought a High Court case against the Department for Transport’s (DfT) in relation to the policy.

The current NPSNN was published in 2014 and set out the government’s policy against which decisions on major road and rail projects will be made.

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps agreed to review the policy in July 2021 in conjunction with the release of the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan. However, he decided not to suspend the NSPNN during the two-year period that it will take to carry out the review.

TAN’s contention is that the NPSNN is now out of date in regard to developing issues with the climate crisis.

Ultimately the challenge was thrown out by a High Court judge, who ruled that removing the policy statement before it was updated would undermine its authority.

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