As the country faces a hung parliament, what are the key infrastructure issues for the new government to address?
During the election campaign Heathrow expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham said a large Conservative majority would be good for Heathrow’s planning chances. We now know this has not happened. Although Labour had supported airport expansion in the south east of England in its manifesto, the Conservatives had explicitly backed Heathrow’s controversial third runway in government. Some key Heathrow opponents have been re-elected, including Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park. Vince Cable is also back in Twickenham.
A public consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) finished on 25 May, and the new government will not be expected to make a decision on the revised NPS in Parliament until winter. However, supporters of the plans will want the new government to show confidence in Heathrow expansion by reaffirming commitment sooner rather than later.
Left out of the Conservative manifesto, the future of Crossrail 2 is far from certain and campaigners for the scheme will want to see a decision from the new government soon.
“The business case that Transport for London (TfL) put in earlier this year has been with them [the last government] for a while now and it needs the nod from government to go to the next stage,” said London First policy director David Leam.
“I’m not expecting anyone to say, ‘No, we’re simply not doing this’. The biggest risk I think is just one of delay.”
Tidal Lagoon Power
In January Charles Hendry published his recommendation that the £1.3bn Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon pathfinder project should go ahead, paving the way for future tidal energy projects around the UK. But the last government had not responded to the review by the time the election was called.
A decision had been due this month, and with many in the industry keen to see the tidal power project go ahead, the next government will certainly feel the pressure to commit sooner rather than later. However, it is worth noting that while Labour had backed tidal power, the Swansea Bay project was notably absent from the Conservative manifesto.
As a hung parliament result was revealed this morning, Tiidal Lagoon Power’s Swansea Bay chair and former Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke stressed that the project urgently needs a decision on its future from a steady government.
“I think quite clearly we need a strong and stable leadership, and we need some decisions from government,” he said, adding that a response to the Hendry review, published six months ago, should be a priority when the new government has been formed.
“The very credibility of government is really being called into question: are independent reviews meaningful, or are they simply wasting time and taxpayers’ money?
“Our economy can’t carry on with a complete vacuum of decisions. We will not be a strong and stable economy: we need government to have policies and get on with it.”
In May the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) published a paper called Delivering Post-Brexit Growth, urging the government to encourage UK investment by committing to infrastructure projects outlined in the National Infrastructure Plan such as HS2 and Heathrow expansion.
During Brexit negotiations, which start in 11 days, Ceca called for European workers’ rights to be guaranteed as a matter of urgency to help plug the industry’s skills gaps.
Theresa May has said that the negotiations will continue in ten days’ time as expected.