“Dream big on infrastructure or face a future nightmare” was the consensus at ICE’s National Needs Assessment meeting jointly hosted by ICE and international law firm Pinsent Masons. They were joined by senior government officials, industry experts and business leaders who came together to discuss Northern Ireland's infrastructure needs up to 2050.
“Resilient infrastructure builds our quality of life, and it is crucial for attracting investment as it enables the movement of people and goods in Northern Ireland,” said Richard Kirk, Regional Director for ICE.
“Though Northern Ireland ticks many of the boxes for investment – such as date and rate for lowered corporation tax, superfast broadband, and an educated workforce – 94% of investing businesses seek locations underpinned by modern infrastructure that will stand the test of time. If we do not invest in it, we will pay the price of poorer health and damage to our economy and environment.”
Currently, there are several projects underway in Northern Ireland and the NI Executive has committed to deliver flagship infrastructure projects during the next Programme for Government. However, unseen infrastructure — water, sewerage and gas — also drive the economy and revitalise communities.
Head of Pinsent Masons UK Infrastructure Projects & Concessions team Adrian Eakin said, "Projects such as the National Needs Assessment provide a valuable vehicle for Northern Ireland to benchmark against other regions, and the discussion highlighted the need to engage with other regions to benefit from their innovation and best practice.”
The needs assessment tackles a number of vital questions: what our infrastructure needs will be in 35 years’ time, how population growth or climate change will affect those needs, and whether Government will be able to afford critical infrastructure when competing with health service funding and other immediate demands.
“Politically integrated with Great Britain, and a physical connection with Republic of Ireland places us at the centre of a population mass close to 70m people, so we have much to gain from a joined-up approach,” Adrian said.
The discussion was one of a series of National Needs Assessment events taking place across the UK, and will result in a report to be published this autumn that sets out a vision for infrastructure up to 2050.