Keith Jones, Director ICE Wales Cymru, explains the outcome of his meeting with the new chair of the NICW.
I recently met with Dr David Clubb, the new chair of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) to discuss his views in his new role and what his focus would be for the future of infrastructure in Wales.
I was joined by our ICE Wales Cymru chair, Ken Evans, his apprentice Rhiannon Humm and primary representatives from the Welsh Infrastructure Alliance (WIA), an alliance of like-minded infrastructure institutions in Wales, of which ICE is a founding member.
Commission’s new focus
Dr Clubb started the discussion by outlining the commission’s new focus under his leadership: on sustainability, zero carbon and the impact on future generations. I believe this is an excellent strategy and in accord with ICE’s own focus of net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Revised structure and remit of the Commission
The chair set out his intention that the new commission is to have fewer members, but include a deputy chair. I was pleased to hear that it should also contain not less than 50% female representation and should reflect the diversity and demographics of Wales as a whole.
Dr Clubb also acknowledged that the commission is an unusual one in that it doesn't have a large secretariat or dedicated staff, or indeed a ring-fenced budget.
He explained that his approach would involve making a “case-by-case project application” across three years that will enable him or the commission to deliver work that is of strong value to Welsh society and hopefully to the Welsh government and other stakeholders.
Independent of government
I was interested to hear that the commission would be independent from the Welsh government but rely on its administrative support.
Dr Clubb explained that they would apply for finance on a project-by-project case to enable them to carry out their work and gave typical examples of the type of projects, including:
- the risk of flooding to businesses and homes in Wales
- renewable energy in Wales
- how to communicate with communities who face long term threats to their existence (e.g. from the effects of climate change, such as those in Fairbourne)
Addressing existing issues
I asked Dr Clubb what he would do about the situation he was inheriting.
He explained that he was particularly keen to address the maintenance of existing infrastructure, on a structural basis and what is needed to be done and how it is funded. I was interested in this as I have long felt that not enough finance is allocated to asset maintenance, and I await further information.
He added he would consider these issues through the lens of carbon emissions to take account of adaptations and natural based solutions, giving the example of flood risk management issues in Wales.
Dr Clubb continued to explain that the NICW would also take into account the unique Well Being of Future Generations Act (Wales) Act 2015 with seven connected well-being goals: a prosperous Wales; a resilient Wales; a healthier Wales; a more equal Wales; a Wales of more cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language and a globally responsible Wales.
I was pleased to hear that Dr Clubb was keen to take the views of younger persons into account, as he admitted, he may span one generation, but they would span two or more.
He had ideas about how he would do this and looked forward to implementing these ideas. To this effect he has already arranged meetings with a young persons groups.
Collaboration in Wales and beyond
It was particularly pleasing to hear that he was also keen to take advice from industry experts. In this respect, my WIA colleagues and I offered to assist in identifying such acknowledged experts. The first study will be to take an initial look at renewable energy.
Further ideas for the next projects that may be researched are awaiting responses from the Welsh government. Advice will also be sought outside Wales to give a UK-wide and global perspective if called for.
The meeting concluded with the WIA offering to act as a “critical friend” and a “sounding board” to the commission. The WIA sees itself as a source of potential solutions to enable the delivery of “world-class” infrastructure in Wales to drive our future prosperity and wellbeing as a nation.
About the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales
The NICW was established in 2018 as a non-statutory body to advise and make recommendations to Welsh ministers on the economic and environmental infrastructure needs of Wales – devolved and non-devolved – over 5 to 30 years including energy, transport, water and sewage, drainage, waste, digital communications, and flooding/coastal erosion.
The first (interim) chair was John Lloyd Jones, who oversaw the initial set-up and the appointment of the first commissioners. Dr Clubb was appointed as chair in November 2021.
The Welsh Infrastructure Alliance
In Wales, ICE is a founder member of the WIA, an alliance of like-minded infrastructure institutions in Wales.
The joint secretariat of the WIA is the ICE, Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE). Representatives from ICE (Keith Jones, Ken Evans and Rhiannon Humm), ACE (Simon Shouler and Dr Piers Burroughs) and CECA (Ed Evans).