ICE director general Tom Foulkes has praised the coalition government’s commitment to retaining a fast-track system for major infrastructure projects, whilst cautioning that close engagement with industry is essential to prevent investor confidence being knocked by the decision to revert to political decision making.
He made the comments whilst speaking to an audience of politicians, civil servants and industry leaders last week at The future of planning in England and Wales forum in Westminster.
Private sector concerns
Foulkes said he understood concerns among the private sector that short-term political considerations could influence decisions in the new system where relevant secretaries of state will have the final say. He urged the Government to work closely with industry to reassure them that the process will remain “fair and efficient”.
“We recognise that the proposed time limit on final decisions seeks to limit potential delays, and our ongoing engagement with officials on this issue has assured us that strategic infrastructure delivery is a top priority for this Government,” he said.
Efficient planning system
“However an efficient planning system is absolutely crucial if we are to meet the challenges ahead of us, outlined by the recent National Infrastructure Plan, and more importantly, ensuring that industry has confidence in it is vital. We must be careful not to give private investors any reason to shy away from making long-term commitments.”
For the UK to become an attractive place to invest, the planning system is just one element of a platform of ambitious initiatives proposed by Government that need to be shored up, Foulkes said.
These include the Green Investment Bank, the follow up to the National Infrastructure Plan, the implementation plan for the Treasury investigation into UK construction costs and the national planning statements. Details of all are expected at various stages in coming months.