What does construction and infrastructure need from the new government?

UK election Ellis Fox Blog

With the election just days away, political parties are promising many things. More investment in energy infrastructure, upgrades on rail and roads, fast tracking planning permissions. These promises are great, if they were to actually mean anything. Unfortunately, few are backed up by concrete targets and there’s even less detail on how they are to be achieved.

Many leaders in the construction and infrastructure sectors have voiced their opinions on what’s needed from government, but the question remains: has anyone been listening? If you consider that the industry has been struggling with the same frustrations with government for the past two decades, it’s a fair question.

Take for instance planning permissions. One only has to think of major infrastructure projects such as HS2, and the Thames Tideway Tunnel, where getting the projects to the starting line has cost billions. No sooner are the projects underway, than it’s announced there isn’t funding to continue. It’s simple, if less time and money was required in legal wrangling to get planning permissions, there’d be more available for actual implementation.

Just about everyone agrees that the complex and convoluted planning permissions process needs reform if there is to be progress. There are many industry leaders with the right knowledge and willingness to provide input on how to do this. The problem is that politics tends to drown out the voices that should be heard.

It’s a similar scenario with regards to achieving net zero targets. Changing regulations, hold ups in planning permissions and flip flopping on taxation and funding are making it challenging to progress towards targets. Mostly because without clarity, private investors are hesitant. Despite this, many new renewable projects have come on line or been approved and this is progress. But further challenges with integrating energy infrastructure and storage remain.

Announcing sweeping reforms and making ambitious promises in order to get votes is not helpful. What the industry needs more than that is collaboration and clarity on policies and for key stakeholders to have a voice in the process.

No-one understands the complexities of delivering infrastructure better than those working in the industry. More than that, they also understand the importance of removing politics from the built environment so that decisions can be made based on industry and economic needs rather than political whims. What are the chances the next government will deliver on that?