Ahead of the March 2017 election, ICE Northern Ireland has named infrastructure delivery as the key priority for the next Northern Ireland Executive.
“Infrastructure unites us rather than divides us,” said Regional Director Richard Kirk. “By connecting our communities, people and opportunities, resilient infrastructure transcends election cycles and political parties.”
“The current climate of uncertainty, austerity and political tension is causing us to miss the bigger picture. We need to be delivering the long-term infrastructure that attracts investment, enables movement of people and goods and offsets the effects of population growth and climate change.”
“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 – a report by AECOM and CBI shows 94% of investing businesses cite quality of infrastructure as a decisive factor when planning future investment.”
“ICE commends the meaningful progress made in regard to flagship projects, the infrastructure pipeline and greater centralisation of delivery of public projects. However, the next Executive must take swift action to address Northern Ireland’s urgent infrastructure needs.”
ICE is calling on the Executive to do the following within its first 100 days:
- Build on the momentum created around the A5, A6, Belfast Rapid Transit and the Belfast Transport Hub.
- Identify York Street Interchange as a flagship project due to its strategic importance to Northern Ireland.
- Support the planning approval and construction of the North-South Interconnector to enable the Integrated Single Electricity Market, lower costs for consumers and achieve security of supply in Northern Ireland.
- Clarify the future funding of apprenticeships. The Department of Finance has reported that Northern Ireland stands to lose £5 million from the block grant as a result of the levy in 2017-18. The levy commences mere weeks after the election, yet Northern Ireland businesses still have no steer on how Government will fund apprenticeships in Northern Ireland.
- Begin statutory processes to introduce domestic water charging. Northern Ireland does not have enough revenue to fund water and sewerage services, and we are the only country in Europe which does not charge for domestic water use. Our wastewater infrastructure is at risk, with £750m of investment needed between 2020-2026 to address capacity and quality issues around Belfast alone.
- Implement the recommendations of the Mills Report to reduce the vulnerability of the waste sector to environmental crime and its consequences by supporting the delivery of publicly-owned and regionally significant waste treatment infrastructure.
- Implement the Strategic Plan for Greenways and an improved Belfast Bicycle Network Plan with an immediate capital and resource injection for cycling in line with the annual £10 per head of population level of investment agreed by 69% of current MLAs in May 2016.
Richard concluded: “Our sector can only lead the way so much on these issues – we need a secure Government committed to funding and delivering outcomes in order to achieve results for Northern Ireland. If we let political instability delay investment in infrastructure, we damage our health, economy, environment and quality of life.”