The RTPI is pleased that the Government has committed to increase planned infrastructure spending in the National Infrastructure Plan both nationally, and – critically – locally.
Dr Peter Geraghty, President of the RTPI, said: “Planners will see the 2013 National Infrastructure Plan as being another step – albeit a cautious one – in the right direction. The RTPI is pleased that the Government has recognised the value of greater investment in infrastructure as a driver for the economy. However the government needs to be more focussed on how infrastructure spending can assist matters of immediate concern to people, such as unlocking housing schemes, as outlined in our recent report Delivering Large Scale Housing.”
Surprisingly for a national plan, the NIP also includes a number of proposals that affect Local Planning Authorities. The Government proposes a statutory duty on Local Planning Authorities to produce a Local Plan, and a proposal that existing households will benefit from new development to provide for the needs of new households.
Dr Peter Geraghty added: “The RTPI looks forward to working with the Government to ensure that these measures are workable. A statutory duty to produce a Local Plan may focus council leaderships’ on the importance of producing a Local Plan but the more pressing issue is adequately resourcing already very stretched planning teams. The suggestion that existing households should benefit from new development is not a new one, and remains a significant challenge. There is a limited amount of money that can be taken from development before it becomes unviable and investing in local infrastructure is one of the keys to ensuring development is sustainable as well as accepted by existing communities. Proper infrastructure provision ensures that housing sites get unlocked.”
Whilst the report suggests that it is aiming to articulate an “overall vision” for UK infrastructure “across different sectors now and in the future”, the RTPI is concerned that much of the content of the plan is still strongly divided by sector. While a commitment to project priorities and timelines across sectors is welcome, more consideration needs to be given to the wider integration of infrastructure strategy, both across infrastructure sectors and in the economy more broadly.
Additionally, while the RTPI welcomes that the Government’s explicit recognition of the capability of infrastructure to accelerate the delivery of housing, as outlined in the plan’s summary of the Crossrail and Northern Line Extension projects, we believe that this kind of broad-minded analysis is still strongly under-used, and consideration of such wider benefits should be at the heart of infrastructure investment.
The RTPI is pleased to see the NIP highlighting innovative infrastructure funding schemes, such as the use of Tax Increment Financing for infrastructure investment in Nottingham and Sheffield, and LEP retention of business rates growth within Enterprise Zones. The Government now needs to assess and make public the successes of these projects and push for the expansion of best-practice models.
The National Infrastructure Plan proposes a number of changes that will affect Local Plan delivering, the government will “take further steps to address delays at every stage of the planning process and incentivise improved planning performance”:
- consulting on mechanisms to speed up Local Plan production, including a statutory requirement to put local plans in place
- addressing delays associated with the discharge of planning conditions
- consulting on proposals to reduce the number of applications where unnecessary statutory consultations occur
- ensuring that households benefit from developments in their local area; building on the measures it has already put in place (including the neighbourhood funding element of the Community Infrastructure Levy), the government will work with industry, local authorities and other interested parties to develop a pilot passing a share of the benefits of development directly to individual households.
The National Infrastructure Plan also includes:
- £375 billion for the period to 2020 and beyond
- Draft National Networks National Policy Statement has been published today, with proposal to publish final document in December 2014
- The allocation of £800m of Public Works Loan Board funding to LEPs on a competitive basis, in line with that of the Local Growth Fund
- The development of a pilot programme to pass a share of development benefits directly to individual households
- A more ‘robust’ infrastructure pipeline, indicating the progress status of individual projects.
You can download the National Infrastructure Plan 2013 here.