Former Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis is set to head up chancellor George Osborne’s new infrastructure body
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The newly created National Infrastructure Commission will advise on schemes such as a Crossrail 2, High Speed 3, large-scale housing and energy projects.
The commission is set to be revealed at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester later today (5 October).
Labour peer Adonis will give up his role as the party’s whip in the House of Lords to allow him to advise the government on new infrastructure projects.
Speaking to the BBC, Adonis said: ‘Without big improvements to its transport and energy systems, Britain will grind to a halt.
‘Major infrastructure projects like Crossrail and building major new power stations span governments and Parliaments. I hope it will be possible to forge a wide measure of agreement across society and politics on key infrastructure requirements for the next 20 to 30 years.’
The transport commission was originally mooted by former Labour leader Ed Miliband during his manifesto for the 2015 general election and was modelled on the Armitt Commision which was set up by Ed Balls in 2012 to speed up large infrastructure projects.
A spokesperson for the RIBA:
‘[We] welcome the Government’s decision to establish a National Infrastructure Commission. This announcement offers the potential to take a longer-term view of the country’s infrastructure needs.
‘The Government must place housing at the heart of their infrastructure plans if they are to deliver their commitment to tackle the housing crisis.’
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation:
‘Infrastructure is absolutely crucial to attracting the investment that is needed to regenerate the UK’s towns and cities and create growth. Today’s announcement is therefore very welcome, and we hope to see swift decisions over important projects to ensure clarity and certainty for investors.
‘In order to create places where people will live as well as work, we would hope to see discussion as to whether large-scale housing schemes could be considered within significant infrastructure projects.This would enable the development industry to deliver a large number of homes, quickly.’
Mark Sitch, senior partner for Barton Willmore:
‘Regardless of your politics, Adonis has impressive credentials in transport infrastructure and housing, and a real opportunity to shake up the debate and stimulate positive change with pragmatic ideas and solutions.
‘As a national planning and design practice, we would like to see him advise the Government on how to improve housing supply - through reappraising Green Belt land, ensure greater cooperation between local authorities where there is a large housing need and encourage local authorities and other public land owners to free up land for housing, economic or infrastructure development.
‘As well as continuing to push for improved rail, road and air links to attract investment and help to relieve the housing strain on our cities and large towns.
‘Adonis has the opportunity to help to deliver more housing and essential infrastructure, and prove his appointment is more than a political showpiece. Let’s hope he delivers on this unique opportunity to help introduce meaningful reform where it is needed most.’
Richard Robinson, chief executive at AECOM:
‘While today’s announcement is welcome news to those tasked with delivering the UK’s infrastructure, industry optimism may be tempered with caution. The infrastructure commission must have the necessary binding decision-making powers to initiate infrastructure and get Britain building. It’s crucial the commission doesn’t become a long-grass forum into which politically charged projects are kicked.
‘Attempting to de-politicise infrastructure decision-making may help bring some of the UK’s critically needed infrastructure projects to fruition. Lord Adonis’s appointment is a smart move: more than just a political coup, it sends a signal that the commission will be truly cross-party. The challenge now is delivery. Ensuring the UK has the technical and organisational skills to deliver must be a priority.’