As Building reveals the response to our Agenda 15 initiative, our construction manifesto for the next government has started to take shape

Sarah Richardson

Against a backdrop of August sunshine, and an increasing degree of optimism in the sector, it may feel like a long time since Building launched the Agenda 15 initiative.

The campaign, aimed at pulling together a manifesto for the built environment to lobby politicians within the run-up to the 2015 election, was launched in January, when the industry had barely started to feel the effects of the recovery. It also coincided with comments made by Sir John Armitt, that planning for the UK’s long-term energy infrastructure needs was so poor that “blackouts would be the best thing that could happen” in terms of spurring policy makers into action.

The combination of these circumstances made plain the need for the government to put the industry at the heart of its plan for infrastructure improvements.

The problem was that, on the one hand, a short-term approach to public and private investment, due to the five-year political cycle, had left the UK with a backlog of work needed to bring not only its energy infrastructure, but its schools, transport and housing up to the standard and volume needed. On the other, the industry that was needed to deliver these changes was still crippled by the worst recession in living memory, and lacked the capability and incentive to invest without assurance from policy makers over the longevity of development programmes.

Since the launch of Agenda 15’s first phase - a consultation to gather the industry’s views on six areas of policy development - the need for a long-term approach has become even more apparent, with the flooding crisis in the spring, and shortfalls of homes and school places continuing to make headlines.
The industry’s responses - which we have summarised in two special features, published in the magazine this week and last - make clear the passion for change that exists.

What now needs to happen is that the best of these ideas are given the consideration they deserve by politicians of all parties, ahead of the next government. Building will play its part in pushing for this by turning your suggestions into a formal manifesto. We hope that, having been consulted at every stage of its creation, the industry will get behind this manifesto and demonstrate that even though many organisations will continue to carry out their own lobbying, construction as a whole is capable of delivering a coherent message to Whitehall. Because, despite the intellectual weight behind many of the individual messages, the impression of a divided sector still hampers the industry in its negotiations. As our columnist Jack Pringle wrote in Building recently: “We should be as united as possible in dealing with the government.”

The responses to our consultation make clear that there are huge lines of consensus in the sector. There will always be different opinions on how to get there - but the direction of travel is clear. And it is time the industry, as a whole, set its course.

Sarah Richardson, editor