Shadow chancellor Ed Balls lays out 10 priorities for National Infrastructure Commission


Source: PA Photos

An incoming Labour government would make increasing housebuilding a key aim of its planned independent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), a move called for by Building’s own Agenda 15 manifesto.

Giving the housebuilding industry the support it needs to build 200,000 homes per year is one of 10 priorities that the NIC, which would be tasked with tacking long-term infrastrucure decisions, would be given as part of its remit.

Ed Balls, Labour shadow chancellor, will today promise to include a draft bill to set up the NIC in a new Labour government’s first Queens’ Speech after the election.

The 10 priority areas - dubbed National Infrastructure Goals by Labour - are due to be published for consultation later today. Labour has confirmed that the infrastructure of new towns and urban extensions would be one of these priorities overseen by the Commission, in a bid to ensure 200,000 new homes a year were built by 2020 and that housebuilding was ‘meeting need’ by 2025.

Building’s Agenda 15 calls for an independent infrastructure body, such as the NIC, to draw up a plan to raise housebuilding to 200,000 per year, and to include plans for new Garden Cities above 5,000 homes within its remit.

Housebuilding is currently running at half the level needed by most estimates. The most recent annual government data, to the end of 2013, shows completions actually fell between 2012-13 to 138,000, partly because of a drop off in social housebuilding.

The plan to include housing in the NIC’s remit recieved a welcome response from the British Property Federation. Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “We are delighted to see that Labour would like to see housing recognised as nationally significant infrastructure.

“If we are to deliver housing at scale at the same time as creating commercial hubs that will drive economic growth, we need to encourage the development of well-connected, mixed-use communities where people can both live and work. Including residential within the NSIP process would be a significant step forward in this respect, and we hope that whoever is in power after the next election takes this forward.”

Speaking at the UK Infrastructure Conference Balls is expected to say: “For too long successive governments have ducked and delayed the vital decisions we need to take for the long term. As a country we have got to stop kicking big decisions into the long grass.

“So in our first Queen’s Speech after the election we will act. We will establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to identify our long-term infrastructure needs, from energy to flood defences and transport.

“The Commission will then ensure government comes up with credible plans to meet them - and hold Ministers’ feet to the fire to deliver those plans.

“We need an ambitious vision to ensure Britain has a transport network that spreads prosperity to every part of the country, is the best place in the world to do scientific research and meets the challenge of climate change.

“Infrastructure investment is vital to boosting growth and productivity in a way which raises living standards for the many, not just a few at the top. That’s why it is a key part of Labour’s economic plan.”

The announcement by Labour follows on from independent review of infrastructure undertaken by Sir John Armitt, the Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, which reviewed long-term infrastructure planning in the UK.

Other goals included in the draft remit for the National Infrastructure Commission include building a ‘secure, sustainable energy system’, a ‘transport network which spreads growth and prosperity to every part of the country’ and aiming to put five cities in ‘the European top 20 for growth between now and 2045’. The goals however do not make any mention of airport capacity as a priority.

NIC’s 10 headline goals

  • The infrastructure to help deliver more good jobs, stronger and more balanced growth and rising living standards for all
  • The most connected and open trading nation in the world
  • The best place in the world to do scientific research
  • A decarbonised power sector and infrastructure that meets the challenge of climate change
  • A transport network which spreads growth and prosperity to every part of the country
  • The most advanced telecommunications economy in the world
  • The most resource efficient economy in the world
  • A secure, sustainable energy system
  • Five cities in the European top 20 for growth between now and 2045
  • The infrastructure, new towns and urban extensions to ensure 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 and that we are meeting need by 2025