Synergy for the South West in the Second National Infrastructure Assessment

On the 18 October, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) launched their Second National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA2) and shared their recommendations with Government.

The Assessment identifies three core strategic challenges for the UK and suggests how these should be addressed:

  • decarbonising the economy and achieving net zero
  • supporting growth across all the UK’s regions
  • adapting to and remaining resilient to the changing climate

The Assessment was launched during a live stream with the chair of the Commission, Sir John Armitt and the commissioners. Paula Hewitt, chair of the South West Infrastructure Partnership was in the audience and shares her reflections on the recommendations and the implications for the South West region.

Paula said:

“There is a good deal of synergy between the challenges highlighted in the Second National Infrastructure Assessment and those identified in our own South West Vision 2050. During the launch event I was pleased that flooding, water shortages, water quality, energy networks, household heating, transport networks and digital infrastructure were all referenced. It was particularly heartening to hear recognition of the need to work at a local level and to engage with local communities.”

The commissioners make 46 recommendations to Government in the assessment, which include: 

  • adding low carbon, flexible technologies to the electricity system to ensure supply remains reliable and creating a new strategic energy reserve to boost Great Britain’s economic security.
  • taking a clear decision that electrification is the only viable option for decarbonising buildings at scale, getting the UK back on track to meet its climate targets and lowering energy bills by fully covering the costs of installing a heat pump for lower income households and offering £7,000 support to all others.
  • investing in public transport upgrades in England’s largest regional cities to unlock economic growth, improving underperforming parts of the national road network and developing a new comprehensive and long term rail plan which will bring productivity benefits to city regions across the North and the Midlands.
  • ensuring gigabit capable broadband is available nationwide by 2030 and supporting the market to roll out new 5G services.
  • preparing for a drier future by putting plans in place to deliver additional water supply infrastructure and reduce leakage, while also reducing water demand.
  • setting long term measurable targets and ensuring funded plans are in place to significantly reduce the number of properties that are at risk of flooding by 2055.
  • delivering a more sustainable waste system by urgently implementing reforms to meet the 65 per cent recycling target by 2035, and creating stronger incentives for investment in the recycling infrastructure that will be needed in the future.

Paula added:

I was also pleased to hear reference to environmental improvements and improving natural capital and the need to improve the planning system to enable low carbon developments to come forward in a timely manner. The ICE also got a mention for its great work, particularly in relation to design champions.

I was disappointed that while there was reference during the launch to the need to invest more in infrastructure in the Midlands and North, there was no mention of increased investment for the South West. However, there is much in the report that I believe we can build upon to make the case for investment in infrastructure in the South West.

I am still digesting the assessment and its recommendations, but I would highly recommend that you have a read of this milestone report for UK infrastructure.”