New infrastructure planning survey
The challenges faced by the newly-formed National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) in terms of harnessing public opinion were highlighted by a survey report published in December 2015.
Perhaps the main issue the Commission will need to address is the finding that while 87% support infrastructure investment, only 6% believe there is a ‘very well coordinated’ national or local plan to deliver it. Community engagement scored highest (41%) when it came to the question of what would best increase confidence in the infrastructure sector.
The independent survey of attitudes to infrastructure in Great Britain 2015 was published by Copper Consultancy and Peter Brett Associates and is based on a sample survey of 2,000 individuals and focus groups. The report was launched at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) by the NIC chairman Lord Adonis, and recently-appointed ICE president John Armitt.
The results reveal a sense that most people feel uninvolved and ignored by politicians and other decision-makers in terms of infrastructure development priorities. One of the report’s conclusions is that a more ‘joined up approach’ and ‘more leadership’ is required to promote a more positive vision of future infrastructure projects.
In terms of the infrastructure priorities highlighted by the survey, the results were as follows:
- Renewable energy (43%).
- More house-building (39%).
- Waste from energy plants (32%).
- Railways (31%).
- Flood defences (30%).
- Motorways/A-roads (28%).
- Nuclear power projects (19%).
- Airports (8%).
- Coal and gas power stations (8%).
Lord Adonis said: “This report is timely and vital. For too long the British people have been forced to put up with chaos, congestion and costs, thanks to successive governments’ failure to build the long-term infrastructure this country needs. So as we establish the independent National Infrastructure Commission, it is clear we have to utterly transform the way we plan and deliver major projects in this country.
“This survey shows that the public want proper investment and planning behind world class developments. But whilst the support is there for real improvement, people rightly demand proper engagement and genuine consultation. It is now up to the industry as a whole to take these findings forward and build the broad coalition of support we need to secure the projects of the future.
“I will ensure that the commission places the needs and views of the UK public at the heart of a long-term strategy and responds to the clear demand for a more strategic two-way conversation.”
Sir John Armitt said: “Public interest in infrastructure is as much driven by fear of disrupted lives as it is by a promise of greater convenience, speed or improved quality of life. The challenge for us all – ICE, government and the NIC alike - is to open up the debate and address these fears. Our ability to explain – in plain language - what we are trying to achieve and why, to be prepared to consider alternative solutions and to put ourselves in the public’s shoes is absolutely vital if we are to gain sufficient political and public support, without which important projects simply cannot proceed.”
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