Mayoral Candidates clash at London Infrastructure Debate

At the London Infrastructure Debate, held by the UK’s leading infrastructure organisations, candidates discussed a number of issues relating to London’s built environment.

Antony Oliver, Editorial Consultant and Journalist, chaired.
Antony Oliver, Editorial Consultant and Journalist, chaired.

Mayoral candidates clashed over a number of issues last night (Monday 4th April), including on housing, paying for transport upgrades and the future of infrastructure investment.

Candidates Caroline Pidgeon AM, Cllr Sian Berry and Peter Whittle were joined by Rail Minister Claire Perry MP, who was representing Zac Goldsmith, and London Assembly Member Val Shawcross AM CBE, representing Sadiq Khan at the Debate. The event was chaired by Antony Oliver former Editor of Infrastructure Intelligence with an audience over 320 people, with many more watching live online.

In one of many heated exchanges, the candidates clashed over the funding for future infrastructure projects with Claire Perry calling Sadiq Khan's proposed fares freeze a "gimmick". Val Shawcross responded that a large number of efficiency savings could be found within Transport for London's budget.

The discussion examined a wide range of infrastructure issues including transport and aviation
The discussion examined a wide range of infrastructure issues including transport and aviation

On housing, the candidates set out a number of proposals for reducing London's housing shortage including a 'Homes for London' agency proposed by Sadiq Khan. Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat candidate, called for "an Olympic effort" to build the houses required.

Peter Whittle, UKIP's candidate, called for controls on immigration to reduce demand for housing, provoking strong disagreement from a number of the other candidates. All panellists ruled out a relaxation of Green Belt regulations as a means of increasing London's housing supply, however.

One issue the candidates all agreed on was aviation, with all present reaffirming their opposition to a third runway at Heathrow and Green candidate Sian Berry ruling out any airport expansion due to climate change and air quality issues.

Climate change and resilience was the last issue to be debated, with Caroline Pidgeon attacking Boris Johnson's legacy on solar power and clean energy. All candidates agreed more needed to be done to increase green local energy generation.

The Debate was organised by the five major infrastructure bodies: the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Construction Products Association (CPA), Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) London and Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

In a joint statement, the organisations said: "Continued investment in London's infrastructure is vital if the city is to succeed over the next decade. The next Mayor will play an essential role in ensuring London is able to meet a growing population and an increased threat from climate change whilst remaining economically competitive.

"The candidates present all have very different ideas of what London needs to remain a successful city. What they can all agree on is that infrastructure is at the heart of that debate. The next Mayor will have a lot to do to ensure the city continues to get the investment it needs in terms of transport, energy, water, waste and internet improvements".

A Drinks Reception sponsored by Atkins followed the Debate.
A Drinks Reception sponsored by Atkins followed the Debate.

After the Debate, candidates attended a Reception held in association with Atkins following the launch of their Future Proofing London report, published in February. At the Reception, National Infrastructure Commissioner and ICE President Sir John Armitt spoke about the importance of Government support for the infrastructure sector. Atkins Managing Director, Neil Thomas, emphasised the need for all Mayoral candidates to back infrastructure investment.

Speakers

  • Antony Oliver, Chair
  • Cllr Sian Berry, Green Party
  • Claire Perry MP, Conservative
  • Val Shawcross AM CBE, Labour
  • Caroline Pidgeon AM, Liberal Democrat
  • Peter Whittle, UK Independence Party

Organisers

  • Association for Consultancy and Engineering
  • Civil Engineering Contractors Association
  • Construction Products Association
  • Institution of Civil Engineers London
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers
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