West Midlands mayoral candidates put roads and transport at the top of their ‘to do’ list

A commitment to infrastructure development was agreed by all three candidates standing to be mayor of West Midlands in a debate called by ICE, RIBA, RICS and RTPI

Professional institutions all agree the built environment is crucial to the West Midlands.
Professional institutions all agree the built environment is crucial to the West Midlands.

Chaired by RICS global president Dr Louise Brooke-Smith, the panel included three mayoral candidates and Nigel Blundell, partner at Pinsent Masons. This is what they said:

UKIP's Pete Durnell

"There is no 'pot of gold' available and there will be a myriad of problems, frequent objections and different points of view to overcome.

"The new mayor is going to need to fight for every penny of investment and keep a tight rein on the council itself which could easily 'balloon out' into a costly hindrance rather than a useful mechanism for getting things done."

On congestion he said HGV tolls are uneconomic. "I want to make the M6 toll more attractive to HGVs to attract them away from the M6," he said.

Liberal Democrat Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen on camera
Beverley Nielsen on camera

"There is much more we can do with our public sector assets and I long to be able to release the housing receipts capital."

On transport, she would introduce a 'Beverley's bikes' scheme and free transport for all under 25s. She also mentioned setting up a charity to improve 100 miles of water and cycleways.

She advocated a collaborative approach to achieve the best for the region and is keen for the new mayor to have a coordinating role which looked at new innovative ideas for land remediation to free up space for housing and other developments.

On skills she said: "The future is full of opportunities in the built environment."

Conservative Andy Street

His key message is that a transport revolution is coming. "Young people are no longer addicted to cars. We need the authority to make that revolution happen."

He advocated a clean air policy "to drive out the congestion from our cities" and on the built environment "to take pride in our built infrastructure at both macro and micro levels".

On housing: "Demand in the next five years cannot be solved by just building more one bed houses in Sutton Coldfield."

"Westminster is not the problem – it's getting seven local authorities to agree. The mayor should be someone who can stand up and take the risks to get things done," he said.

What the other panel members said:

Pinsent Masons' Nigel Blundell

Panellists and chair (left Andy Street, Beverley Nielsen, Nigel Blundell, Dr Louise Brooke-Smith, Pete Durnell)
Panellists and chair (left Andy Street, Beverley Nielsen, Nigel Blundell, Dr Louise Brooke-Smith, Pete Durnell)

He shared his experience of advising local authorities on joint venture partnerships for regeneration of housing stock. He is also concerned that large national projects such as HS2 could create local skills shortages.

"The extent of land in public ownership is a great opportunity and one of the key roles for the mayor to be strategic and look across boundaries. A devolved authority needs to be able to retain receipts to drive the strategy.

"Sustainability and a great quality of life should be important economic drivers for our region," he said.

Molly McKenzie, ICE East Midlands and West Midlands Regional Director

"Strategy implementation will require consistency, clarity and collaboration across the devolved region to give certainty to investors. We advocate a systems approach to ensure strong linkages between infrastructure sectors and a joined-up approach to skills to deliver future projects.

"Our professional institutions all agree that the built environment is crucial to economic and financial prosperity as well as the health and wellbeing of everyone working and living within the region."

Green Party mayoral candidate James Burn was unable to attend.

See interviews with the panellists on Made in Birmingham TV

Please note: coverage starts at 05.15.

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