After one of the longest sessions in Parliament drew to a close last week, today we saw the first clear plans about the current government’s priorities for the future.
The Queen’s Speech, which marks the State Opening of Parliament, announced 33 new pieces of legislation, with a further 15 non-legislative measures.
While much of the focus was on the bills needed to both deliver and respond to Brexit, there was also a clear domestic legislative agenda for the next year.
National Infrastructure Strategy
The big announcement for the ICE were the details on the long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS).
The documents published alongside the speech state that the NIS will set out the government’s long-term ambitions across all areas of economic infrastructure, including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance, and delivery
ICE welcomes this recognition of the importance of infrastructure in delivering social and economic benefits. The confirmation that the National Infrastructure Strategy will be published this autumn reinforces that commitment and should ensure that the UK’s infrastructure is delivered in a coherent and comprehensive way, which recognises our economic, social and climate requirements.
We've long been calling on the government to take a holistic, evidence-based approach to planning and delivering infrastructure to ensure that society gets the infrastructure it needs.
Not only this, but long-term planning and a rigorous focus on improving productivity across the built environment sector will be essential in securing an economically strong and net-zero carbon Britain in the months and years ahead.
Earlier this summer, the ICE published a policy report setting out the details of what we want to see in the NIS, which you can read here. We'll be watching the strategy closely to ensure that it delivers what the country needs.
We also saw confirmation that the government will bring forward a White Paper aimed at increasing devolution in England.
Building on the Chancellor’s announcement at party conference earlier this month, the paper will aim to set out information on proposed increased powers at a local level, including more mayors and devolution deals.
We'll be monitoring this closely and are calling on the government to use this opportunity to set out a devolved framework that enables the creation of subnational infrastructure bodies, in place of existing transport bodies.
These bodies should be tasked with creating integrated regional infrastructure strategies, which include housing to ensure that infrastructure is planned in a holistic way to meet local needs.
You can read more about our work on this issue in our latest policy report State of the Nation 2019: Connecting Infrastructure with Housing.
Connecting Infrastructure with housing
Linked to our work on State of the Nation 2019 was the announcement that the government’s new bill on broadband rollout will include a requirement for developers to work with broadband companies to ensure that all new-build developments have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections.
However, broadband is just one part of the issue and ensuring that all infrastructure is planned and delivered alongside any new housing in key. This is why we're calling for regulators to build greater flexibility into the utilities’ regulated asset base model so that they're engaged much earlier on in longer term plans.
What does this mean for the infrastructure sector?
So what does this all mean for infrastructure? While it's clear the government’s focus for the rest of the year will be primarily dominated by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations over the coming weeks, there's an ambition to begin to relook at a range of domestic priorities.
In addition to the measures outlined above, throughout the Speech there were other announcements that the ICE will be watching closely over the coming months.
These include the results of the Williams Review into the railways, the reintroduction of the High Speed Rail 2 (west Midlands – Crewe) Bill and a new Environment Bill which will establish a new Office for Environmental Protection.