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Infrastructure needs to be connected to housing to ensure homes for the future, says ICE

10 September 2019

The Institution's flagship policy report, State of the Nation 2019, was published today.

Infrastructure needs to be connected to housing to ensure homes for the future, says ICE

A reform of the way infrastructure and housing are delivered, ensuring a more strategic and aligned approach, is necessary if the government is to deliver on its housebuilding programme, says ICE.

As part of its annual State of the Nation report series, ICE has this year focused on the relationship between housing and economic infrastructure.

The report, State of the Nation 2019: Connecting Infrastructure with Housing, was launched today (10 September) at ICE’s London headquarters.

ICE Vice President Rachel Skinner, Chair of the report’s Steering Group, said: “We know that the provision of housing in the UK, as a key part of creating high-quality, productive places, is one of the country’s most pressing problems. However, we must also recognise that without properly integrated infrastructure, it can often fail to meet the needs of the places it hopes to support.

“There is now clear evidence that shows the majority of the population would support new housing projects if they included the necessary infrastructure, such as transport, energy and water. ICE’s State of the Nation 2019 report comprehensively assesses the ways in which we can better deliver infrastructure and housing in a coordinated and integrated way, which will have long-term benefits for communities throughout the country."

ICE has produced a State of the Nation report since 2002. These reports position ICE as an authority on infrastructure policy and cross-cutting issues affecting civil engineers. Previous years' topics have included infrastructure investment, digital transformation, and devolution.

What the report recommends

The report makes recommendations which it believes will help bring these two important sectors closer together.

The 10 recommendations cover the areas of planning, funding and financing, and futureproofing.

ICE suggests the creation create regional infrastructure strategies across England to better ensure effective integration of infrastructure and housing planning across boundaries and at local, regional and national levels.

It also suggests that the government should amend the Development Consent Order process to enable larger-scale housing developments to be built.

In thinking about the future, the report recommends that the next National Infrastructure Assessment should identify options for futureproofing new and existing housing stock to ensure suitability for the future.

In particular, it advises of the potential to consider how housing and infrastructure can be delivered to reach the net zero carbon targets, while taking full advantage of appropriate technological advancements.

Read all of the State of the Nation 2019 recommendations.

Public perceptions of infrastructure and housing

As part of the report’s research, ICE had Ipsos MORI conduct a public survey to gauge the UK’s views on the importance of the infrastructure and housing relationship.

The survey found that a majority of the population (60%) say they would support the building of more housing in their local area if any necessary new infrastructure was built at the same time.

The same survey found that 32% of British adults believe decisions about what new housing is needed should be taken both nationally and locally. While 38% believe decisions about what new infrastructure is needed should be taken nationally and locally.

Industry response to the report

Sir John Armitt CBE FICE, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said:

“New housing is essential if the UK is to meet the demands of a growing population, but it needs effective infrastructure to transform houses and flats into thriving communities where people want to live and work.

“We also need homes and places designed for our future, not our past. That means housing set up for the switch to low-carbon power and heating and designed with electric car charging in mind and fast digital connectivity as a necessity not a luxury, situated in well-designed communities - connected by effective transport networks - that can support jobs, growth and a good quality of life.

“Too often, however, infrastructure and housing delivery aren’t properly aligned. The ICE’s call for more integrated housing and infrastructure planning is a welcome contribution to this increasingly important discussion.”

Victoria Hills MRTPI FICE, Chief Executive The Royal Town Planning Institute, said:

“The Royal Town Planning Institute is delighted to support the findings of the ICE report. RTPI has long campaigned for the planning profession to be empowered to take its role in bringing together infrastructure and housing development, through cross boundary spatial strategies, to create economically sustainable places.

"Our recent research on the Location of Development found that over half of the houses permitted are not within easy walking or cycling distance of a railway, metro or underground station.We welcome the ICE’s report and further evidence that infrastructure should not be considered in isolation of other development, and also the recognition of the crucial role planners play.

"This is why we call on government and local authorities to better resource planning and put planning at the heart of local delivery for local people.”

Caroline Gumble, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), said:

“The CIOB fully supports the recommendations by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to align the way in which infrastructure and housing are delivered with a more strategic approach. The idea of the development of integrated regional infrastructure strategies, which include the planning and construction of new housing, could prove to be an important tool in ensuring that government meets its commitment to increase the number of homes available across the country.

"The CIOB also hopes to support the development of these strategies with research and data into the value of construction across the regions of the UK, which will be available later this year.

"A new approach is also another opportunity to embed a new culture across the industry, from housebuilding to large, regional infrastructure projects. We’d very much like to see quality placed at the heart of the strategy, following the principles outlined in our Code of Quality Management. The development of fully integrated regional infrastructure strategies is an ideal showcase for quality in the built environment and the drive to raise standards.”

Find out more

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on discussions, conversations and workshops with over 170 organisations and professionals from across the UK. As well as civil engineers, the panel consulted with experts from the wider infrastructure sector, planning and housebuilding communities.

Download the report

  • Emma Beer, media relations manager at ICE