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ICE policy position statement: evolving the UK strategic infrastructure planning system

12 July 2021

In April, ICE published a discussion paper and consultation seeking views on how to evolve strategic infrastructure planning in the UK.

This policy position statement draws on the evidence received and makes seven recommendations that focus on practical changes to realign the approach to national infrastructure planning. These recommendations seek to ensure future development of the UK’s infrastructure system delivers on levelling-up, infrastructure decarbonisation, and adapting to new models of behaviour post-pandemic.

In recent years, the framework for strategic infrastructure planning and prioritisation has been centred on independent advice on infrastructure from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

The underpinning principle of an NIC and the first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) – a clear, well-evidenced plan of action to use during a period of political turmoil and uncertainty caused by Brexit and the pandemic – has been valued by both policymakers and industry. Our review outlines the benefits of the NIC and the NIA to industry, government, Parliament and the wider infrastructure system.

Our review confirms that, while the existing approach should, therefore, remain in place, we must learn from the past to ensure the strategic planning framework we use over the next five years is the very best that it can be.

The recommendations are:

  1. The objectives for the NIC, set out in the framework document, should be updated to include net zero and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. Parliament should embrace and make greater use of the NIC as a provider of advice on infrastructure system development that can help with scrutiny of government decisions.
  3. The NIC’s fiscal remit should remain and continue to be set by the government, with this being used as the central band for NIC recommendations.
  4. The publication of a national infrastructure strategy at least once every five years should be enshrined in legislation.
  5. Future national infrastructure strategies should be published either as, or with, national policy statements for infrastructure, and existing statements should be updated.
  6. The NIC should provide an annual update on changes, if any, to the evidence base underpinning its existing recommendations.
  7. Capability in infrastructure planning and prioritisation should continue to be built at the sub-national level by evolving sub-national transport bodies to become sub-national infrastructure bodies, tasked with creating regional infrastructure strategies, backed up by spatial strategies.

ICE policy position statement: evolving the UK strategic infrastructure planning system

Content type: Policy

Last updated: July 2021

Authors: ICE

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers