About £2bn of infrastructure funding is needed to support development in one English county alone, according to a startling report.
The Kent and Medway Growth and Infrastructure Framework found that almost a third of the area’s infrastructure requirements for the next 16 years were unfunded.
Engineering and design giant Aecom produced the study in partnership with Kent County Council – and warned that the cash gaps were likely to be replicated elsewhere.
The report found that 158,500 homes and 135,800 jobs were needed in Kent and Medway between now and 2031. It said that a £6.74bn infrastructure bill was attached to this vision, of which £2bn was unfunded.
The infrastructure bill came from analysis of transport, energy, utility and flood defence requirements – as well as those for education, health and other community services.
More than £2bn will need to be spent on transport alone in Kent and Medway before 2031, according to the report, with a further £1bn on utilities, £400M on flood defences and £330M on waste.
Almost half of the predicted funding gap is in the transport sector, the study said.
Aecom director of design, planning and economics Tom Venables said: “The South East is facing multiple challenges that have the potential to limit economic growth in the region.
“Capitalising on the region’s unique relationship with London could help it become an influential economic powerhouse in its own right. For this to be achieved, the region must facilitate growth through new, joined-up approaches that connect housing provision with infrastructure investment.
“As a responsible, progressive council, Kent has recognised the scale of the challenge. Publication of the Framework is an important first step towards realising the county’s growth and economic potential.”
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said: “The Framework is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to set the terms of the agenda for infrastructure in Kent and Medway with government and the private sector. It tells a sobering story about the challenge we face in delivering the growth to which the 12 districts aspire, but it also gives us a unique chance to do something about it.”
It produced a 10-point action plan to tackle the funding gap:
- Explore innovations in financing of infrastructure
- Explore the potential for a single Infrastructure Delivery Plan for Kent and Medway
- Develop a stronger relationship with London and the South East
- Reform of Community Infrastructure Levy and other developer contributions
- Explore the potential for private sector investment in infrastructure
- Develop a stronger relationship with the utilities
- Maximise the public estate and associated opportunities to further support growth through Kent’s One Public Estate pilot
- Promote a robust design agenda for Kent and Medway
- Develop a more integrated approach to planning and delivering growth
- Further develop the Growth Infrastructure Framework
Aecom and Kent County Council are calling for councils and business across the South East to work together to build a Southern Powerhouse.
The report said: “We will open a conversation with South East Strategic Leaders and the county councils in the South East on strategic issues and priorities, in particular transport, including linkages to London and radial routes to better connect the wider South East.
“Common issues such as the cost of commuting to London linked to surrounding counties’ ability to bring prosperity out of the capital should be considered.” ENDS (550 words)