A majority of the population would support housing developments in their local area if the necessary new infrastructure was integrated with it, research by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has shown.
The finding comes as part of a comprehensive assessment done by the Institution on the relationship between the UK’s housing and infrastructure networks. Survey research found that 60% of British adults would support the building of more housing in their local area if any necessary new infrastructure was built at the same time.
The Institution says 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.
As part of its annual State of the Nation report series, ICE highlights the interdependent relationship between housing and economic infrastructure – making recommendations to help bring these two important sectors closer together.
One way to do this, ICE suggests, is to 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.
The report, State of the Nation 2019: Connecting Infrastructure with Housing, was launched today (10 September) at an event at the ICE’s London headquarters.
Rachel Skinner FICE, ICE Vice President and 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.
“As we collectively strive to ensure that there are enough houses in the UK to support the growing population, we can’t afford for swathes of new developments to be served by poor infrastructure connections and public services. It is essential for us to get this right through strategic and collaborative approaches, while also taking advantage of appropriate technological advances.”
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.”
The 2019 State of the Nation report makes 10 recommendations in the areas of planning, funding and financing, and futureproofing.
It suggests that the government should amend the Development Consent Order process to enable larger-scale housing developments to be built.
It also suggests 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.
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.
The full list of recommendations is:
- The UK government should evolve the role of subnational transport bodies in England to incorporate other economic infrastructure and their interactions with housing to create subnational infrastructure bodies.
- The subnational infrastructure bodies should be tasked with creating integrated regional infrastructure strategies that include housing. These should go beyond individual political cycles, both national and local, be cross-sectoral and evidence-based. Across England, these strategies should feed into the National Infrastructure Strategy to ensure effective integration of infrastructure and housing planning across boundaries and at local, regional and national scales.
- The UK government should amend the charter of the National Infrastructure Commission to include housing alongside economic infrastructure, allowing more joined-up, long-term and evidence-based strategies on housing and infrastructure requirements.
- The UK government should amend the Development Consent Order (DCO) process to enable large-scale housing developments of 5,000 or more homes to be delivered under it, ensuring greater coordination of housing delivery with nationally significant infrastructure, business and commercial projects.
Funding and financing
- Regulators should build greater flexibility into the utilities’ regulated asset base model so that appropriate consideration can be given to providing infrastructure for permitted new housing developments outside of price control periods.
- The Housing Infrastructure Fund in England should be extended beyond 2023–24 and moved to a continuous programme of funding, as opposed to defined bidding rounds. Consideration should also be given to ring-fencing a specific amount of funding for areas of lower land value to ensure more strategic sites nationwide are unlocked for housing development.
- The Scottish Housing Infrastructure Fund, Rural Housing Fund and Islands Housing Fund should be continued beyond 2021 in order to sustain the momentum generated by the More Homes Scotland programme.
- The Welsh government should consider establishing its own version of a Housing Infrastructure Fund in order to unlock strategic sites for development, drawing on the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
- The UK government’s commitment in 2018 to develop a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff that allows local authorities to pool resources to fund specific strategic infrastructure must be carried through by the new administration.
- The next National Infrastructure Assessment should identify options for future-proofing new housing developments and strengthening existing communities, ensuring that decisions are strongly linked to the transformation in transport, water, energy and digital infrastructure that technology will enable and climate change will demand. This should feed into developing and iterating the Future Homes Standard in England.
Ipsos MORI survey
Ipsos MORI conducted an online survey for the Institution of Civil Engineers involving 4,282 GB adults aged 18-75. The survey was conducted over two periods – 16-19 and 23-27 August 2019. Data are weighted to the known population profile.
Full question and responses
In principle, to what extent would you support or oppose the building of more affordable housing for people to buy or rent in your local area if… any necessary new infrastructure was built at the same time. By infrastructure, we mean things we rely on like roads, public transport, utilities such as energy and water, and broadband and other communications.
Strongly support - 24%
Tend to support - 36%
Neither support nor oppose - 19%
Tend to oppose - 10%
Strongly oppose - 7%
It depends/don’t know - 3%