Despite everything that happened in 2020, investment and commitment to big infrastructure remained positive. From both central and local government, as well as the private sector, projects continued to be brought forward across the country. We expect this trend to continue in 2021.
The planning world was fortunate to be able to adapt relatively quickly, and seamlessly, to a digital first approach following the initial national lockdown in March, allowing projects already in the planning phase to continue and new projects to begin. As with most economic crises, infrastructure spending is often seen as a way out; providing much needed jobs and long term investment.
The end of 2020 saw a number of important announcements from the government setting out its commitment to infrastructure development; including the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS), the 10 point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and most recently the long-awaited Energy White Paper. Each of these policy announcements provided the infrastructure sector and investors with encouraging words. 2021 will need to be the year those words are turned into action.
Action on speed of delivery, action on investment, action on policy. The tagline of the NIS is ‘fairer, faster, greener’ and industry will want the government to live up to this.
There are, of course, two external factors that will continue to have an influence on the rate of action – Covid-19 and how the UK adapts to its new relationships with the EU. Whilst the government will be hoping that it’s Brexit deal will provide the economy with much needed certainty, it remains unclear whether this will be the case as we enter 2021.
There appears to a collective agreement across the industry that the NIS and other recent announcements point towards to a positive future for infrastructure in the UK. There is a significant amount of work to be done to reach the ambitious targets set out in those recent announcements, particularly for renewables and the UK’s net zero target. 2021 will end with COP26 in Glasgow, and after what’s happened over the past nine months, it would be unwise to make grand predictions for the year ahead. But there is a growing optimism that we’re on the right path to meeting those ambitious targets, and the infrastructure sector will be integral to getting us there.