Today’s Budget makes some important down payments on the government’s promise of an infrastructure revolution and desire to level-up infrastructure investment. The further downgrading of UK’s productivity performance by the OBR highlights just how urgent it is to start investing in the assets that will underpin our future growth.
Increased investment in flood risk management will be welcomed across the country, none more so than in those communities who are continually impacted by climatic weather events. Annual flood damage costs are already in the region of £1.1B and could rise to as much as £27B by 2080. This means there is limited time to safeguard hundreds and thousands of homes, so we must start taking bold action now. Just as importantly we need to spend the money wisely. We will need to be innovative and be willing to do things differently, which may require new policy approaches from government.
We need to develop our resilience to flooding so we can recover quickly and with minimal impact on society. Counterintuitively, in some areas it will be better to allow existing communities on the flood plain to grow, if that new development is designed to help the whole area deal with rainwater more effectively. These types of solution can not only build resilience but also help places at risk of flooding suffering economic stagnation, while reducing the pressure for greenfield development elsewhere. Our work in a range of places, including Hull, Salisbury and Sydney has shown that these types of schemes drive up quality of life by creating new green spaces for local people as well as acting as a carbon-sink.
We already knew and applauded the decision to progress with HS2 which will make a vital contribution to towards meeting the needs of communities, businesses and industry, and will provide jobs, apprenticeships and career opportunities for both the current and next generations. The delay to the government’s National infrastructure Strategy provides an opportunity to refocus, go further and demonstrate the positives of new and improved infrastructure as a catalyst for economic growth, jobs and better social outcomes. The review of the Green Book and further devolution of funding to metro mayors is a chance to ensure our decision-making processes spread these benefits across the country. Mott MacDonald will use its physical presence in cities like Leeds (where we are an anchor employer) to ensure that infrastructure is designed around the needs of local people.
As we transition out of the European Union, investment in nationally critical transport, utilities and local infrastructure will be vital to attracting funding from other sources and delivering the productivity improvements that the government has set out.
All future investment in new infrastructure and the upkeep and modernisation of existing assets must be mindful of the government’s commitment to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Cathy Travers, UK and Europe regional business managing director