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Infrastructure blog

The Conservative Party manifesto – infrastructure highlights

25 November 2019

The Conservative Party has published its general election manifesto. Here we take a look at what it could mean for infrastructure if the Conservatives are elected as the UK’s governing party.

The Conservative Party manifesto – infrastructure highlights
Conservative Party logo.

With the majority of the political parties manifestos already launched, Sunday saw the turn of the Conservatives to set out their plan for government.

A £100bn investment envelope for capital projects, including infrastructure

On infrastructure, the headline announcement is that the Conservatives would spend an additional £100bn on infrastructure over the next five years, in areas such as roads, rail and elsewhere.

They highlight that £4bn will go on new flood defences and elsewhere in the document they pledge to invest £5bn supporting broadband rollout in areas which are not commercially viable.

However, one thing that wasn’t as prominent as many had expected was a commitment to publishing an infrastructure strategy.

Instead, the manifesto mentions that a £2bn fund to fix potholes would be included as part of a National Infrastructure Strategy. More details of a strategy would follow if they were to form the next government.

Earlier this year ICE published a paper stating what we expect any long-term plan for infrastructure to look like. It is vital that it's not a long list of unrelated projects that doesn't give the country the joined-up vision it needs.

Devolution and housing

Another key theme that was highlighted throughout the document was a pledge to increase devolution to regions across the UK, with plans to hand more powers, investment and specifically, a say in how that money is spent.

There were also plans to amend the planning system and make it easier to build 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s.

They say that key to this is taking an ‘infrastructure first’ approach “so that the infrastructure – roads, schools, GP surgeries – comes before people move into new homes”.

In order to ensure that any investment in regional infrastructure is maximised to deliver the greatest outcomes for communities, in our State of the Nation policy report this year, Connecting Infrastructure with Housing, the ICE called for subnational transport bodies remits to be expanded to take on infrastructure, and for them to produce regional infrastructure strategies and connect these with housing.

Major projects

On major projects, the manifesto promises to look at the findings of the HS2 Oakervee review. Earlier this year ICE looked at HS2 as part of an insights paper which can be found here.

On Heathrow’s third runway, the manifesto states that it will be down to the private sector to demonstrate that it can deliver the project, while meeting the targets for air pollution, noise and net-zero carbon emissions. The ICE also produced an insights paper on this issue of Heathrow’s third runway, which can be read here.

Recommitment to net-zero

The Conservative manifesto recommits to meeting the net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, which was enshrined in law earlier this year.

Next year, ICE’s State of the Nation policy report will be looking at the issue of what infrastructure needs to do in order to help meet this target. You can find out more in our initial insights paper.

The ICE has outlined a three-point plan for infrastructure for the next government, to ensure that society gets the infrastructure it needs and can trust it will be delivered.

This includes publishing a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy, taking the difficult decisions needed to deliver the net-zero target, and working to improve productivity across the entire built environment sector.

  • Vanessa Furey, head of external affairs at Institution of Civil Engineers