Housing a surprise entry in the government’s bulked-up infrastructure pipeline

Planning Houses

The government has launched its most comprehensive infrastructure pipeline to date, totalling £483bn, including £58bn of social and housing projects for the first time.

Treasury minister Lord O’Neill unveiled the pipeline – now known as the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan – at a launch event at the ICE’s headquarters in Whitehall yesterday.

It was launched alongside a rebooted construction strategy that outlined plans to make the government a better client, save £1.7bn on public projects and roll-out BIM level three by 2021.

Of the £483bn pipeline, £297bn of the projects will be delivered over the next five years. The pipeline includes over £100bn of central government-funded projects this parliament, including HS2, Crossrail, road improvements, flood defences and early funding for Crossrail 2 and HS3. The rest of the pipeline will be delivered by other public sector clients or by the private sector.

Lord O’Neill, commercial secretary to the Treasury and a former Goldman Sachs banker, said the government wants the private sector to deliver more infrastructure schemes.

He said: “After 30 years in finance one of the few things I’ve learned is there’s a lot of people smarter than you – there will be someone who comes along and can change the risk profile [on infrastructure projects].

“I believe the important role for government is in enabling the infrastructure market to be more and more self-sustaining.”

The pipeline incorporated £58bn of social and housing projects for the first time, including garden cities at Northstowe, Bicester and Ebbsfleet; five super prisons; and a £23bn investment programme to deliver 500 free schools.

Commenting on the pipeline, Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS, welcomed the publication but warned housing deserved even greater attention: “As a word of caution, we are surprised that housing has been tied in with an infrastructure plan.

“These are both important and very separate issues. The housing crisis, be it the delivery of new social housing for affordable rents or the construction of homes for private ownership, should be afforded a plan in its own right.”

Over the last parliament, average annual infrastructure investment across both the public and private sectors rose 17% in real terms, according to the government.