Sub-national transport bodies should be transformed into sub-national infrastructure bodies and given key strategic roles in planning housing, a major new report has argued.
The Institution of Civil Engineers' (ICE) State of the Nation 2019 report focuses on connecting strategic infrastructure with housing.
'The UK government should evolve the role of subnational transport bodies in England to incorporate other economic infrastructure and their interactions with housing to create subnational infrastructure bodies,' the report argues.
These new regional bodies would create integrated regional infrastructure strategies that include housing and would feed into the National Infrastructure Strategy.
An ICE spokesperson said they had spoken to Midlands Connect and Transport for London but could not confirm if any STBs were in favour of the proposals.
At a national level, the UK government should amend the Development Consent Order (DCO) process 'to enable large-scale housing developments of 5,000 or more homes to be delivered under it, ensuring greater coordination of housing delivery with nationally significant infrastructure, business and commercial projects'.
To support these reforms the ICE gave a number of financial recommendations. These include:
- Regulators should build greater flexibility into the utilities’ regulated asset base model so that appropriate consideration can be given to providing infrastructure for permitted new housing developments outside of price control periods.
- The Housing Infrastructure Fund in England should be a continuous programme of funding without defined bidding rounds.
- The Scottish Housing Infrastructure Fund, Rural Housing Fund and Islands Housing Fund should be continued beyond 2021 in order to sustain the momentum generated by the More Homes Scotland programme.
- The Welsh government should consider establishing its own version of a Housing Infrastructure Fund in order to unlock strategic sites for development, drawing on the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
- The UK government’s commitment in 2018 to develop a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff that allows local authorities to pool resources to fund specific strategic infrastructure must be carried through by the new administration.
The NIC's next National Infrastructure Assessment should ensure housing decisions are 'strongly linked to the transformation in transport, water, energy and digital infrastructure that technology will enable and climate change will demand', and feed this into the Future Homes Standard in England.
Martin Tugwell, programme director at STB England's Economic Heartland, said the the report 'makes for some very interesting reading'.
He added: 'In particular, the recommendation for STBs to become Strategic Infrastructure Bodies - with a co-ordinating role across wider infrastructure – merits further exploration.
'Right from our inception five years ago, the EEH leaders have advocated that the ambitions for our region requires joining-up investment in wider strategic infrastructure.
'It's important that we have a way of aligning investment in transport, digital connectivity and utilities to a shared ambition. Indeed, investment across the infrastructure board is essential in enabling our residents and businesses to realise their potential, attract inward investment and accelerate the delivery of planned growth.'