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RTPI response to National Infrastructure Commission on the Future of Regulation

The National Infrastructure Commission is investigating whether changes might be necessary to the existing regulatory framework, to facilitate future investment needs in infrastructure focusing on energy, telecoms and water, while promoting competition and innovation and meeting the needs of both current and future consumers. The Commission's perspective is long term, covering the next 30 years.

Recent changes to national policy have placed a greater emphasis on strategic infrastructure planning, and the emergence of combined authorities and other strategic partnerships between local authorities offer new opportunities to achieve this. Planners are well-placed to lead on this agenda, and integrate infrastructure into wider place-making objectives. However, our members face significant challenges navigating through the complex and often fragmented systems which relate to its governance, planning, financing and delivery. This coordinating role is also constrained in places by a lack of resourcing of local authority planning departments.

We therefore welcome the focus on utility regulation by the Commission, and hope that it leads to greater integration between different infrastructure sectors in support of sustainable development.

We ask for a proactive regulatory system that allows strategic investments ahead of demand, setting a clear regulatory framework that ensures both social sustainability and the engagement with local strategic plans. Government and the regulators should also clarify the circumstances under which utility companies can invest ahead of need, and consider new mechanisms to help mitigate the financial risks.

The current regulatory structure must oversee the transition to a flexible and de-carbonised heat and electricity network. Here, the Office for Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) should work closely with local and combined authorities to oversee the equitable roll out of electric vehicle charging and smart grid infrastructure, tailored to local needs. Ofgem should also ensure that network operators are maximising opportunities to roll out energy efficiency solutions to consumers.

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