Looking ahead to the Government’s upcoming National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS), we discuss what might be included in the NIS and how the Government’s plans may affect the future of infrastructure in the UK.

The recent Queen’s Speech provided some insight into the current Government’s priorities for UK infrastructure, following on from the announcement that the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) will be released this autumn.

The NIS is a response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), published in July 2018, which made a series of independent recommendations to the Government addressing the key infrastructure needs and priorities for the country. The need to formulate a long-term plan for infrastructure was at the core of these recommendations. This long-term plan was advised to focus on issues of low carbon energy, digital technology, roads, flood management, waste reduction and the future of the UK’s cities.

The NIS will outline the Government’s long-term plans across all areas of infrastructure. The long-term strategy will be crucial to delivering the proposed “infrastructure revolution” that was announced in Sajid Javid’s recent spending review. It will help facilitate the implementation of long-term projects from planning to delivery. The Government’s strategy will create the opportunity to communicate complex project information in a manner that resonates with the public and avoids issues of misinformation and apathy that can cause communication issues around infrastructure projects.

More power for Mayors?

Whilst the current strategy is yet to be released, there have been some details that indicate the core themes of the upcoming document. The Chancellor’s speech at the Conservative Party conference confirmed the Government’s intentions to bring forward a White Paper on devolution. This would follow the NIA’s recommendations of giving Metro Mayors and city leaders new powers with devolved infrastructure budgets. It was also stated in both the Queen’s Speech and the Chancellor’s Spending Review that developments in transport, local growth, decarbonisation and digital infrastructure will form an integral part of the Government’s strategy.

A move to Net Zero?

The focus upon these sectors is of little surprise considering their prominent role in the National Infrastructure Assessment and the autumn party conferences. The particular prominence of transport and decarbonisation in the Government’s strategy builds upon the recent announcement of the ‘Contracts for Difference’, the upcoming second instalment of the Road Investment Strategy and the rail enhancement pipeline. The prioritisation of these sectors delivers a clear message regarding the Government’s long-term priorities for infrastructure.

However, despite the integration of long-term planning into the Government’s infrastructure strategy, these priorities are far from guaranteed. Budgetary constraints and the delicate state of Boris Johnson’s minority government could pose a threat to the implementation of the NIS and limit the effectiveness of this long-term planning.