THE BLOG
23/07/2018 10:02 BST | Updated 23/07/2018 10:02 BST

How We Shape the Backbone of Our Future Cities

The people living in an area have a better idea about what their towns and cities need, so it makes sense to let them be the decision makers

Andrew Aitchison via Getty Images

Boris and David Davis are gone from the current Government and we’re in chaos again. It turns out they have not sorted out Brexit or what will happen to this country after we leave the EU. Whilst everyone is scrambling around trying to figure out what is going on, it’s hard to imagine there is sufficient focus on matters important in day-to-day life of the public.

Outside of Brexit, we have plenty to worry about. Making sure we have enough water in the summer, and that homes aren’t devastated by floods in winter. Making sure there is enough energy to keep lights on in homes. Developing transport links and taking care of the existing ones to stop increasing rail closures and traffic jams. Keeping Britain up to date and able to access good quality internet to help businesses prosper.

I spent my teenage years growing up in a small town in northern England called Worksop. Life in this part of the UK bears no resemblance to London where I now live, and where the bulk of our political decisions are made. London travel isn’t too bad, but moving around up north is less than ideal (especially when you have a sibling with a physical disability). My parents’ neighbourhood has been in an argument about getting faster internet for what feels like forever (people like my dad work from home in small businesses which rely on it). New and re-appearing pot holes are a daily complaint. I remember the devastation of floods in nearby areas, of people losing homes and bridges collapsing.

These are all infrastructure issues.

Historically, infrastructure decisions have been made in short-term government political windows. Politicians change every four years or so, and a politician may push a particular project to make a name for themselves during their time in power, whether or not it is best for the country in the long term. Fragile political consensus had also led to slow and uncertain delivery of major infrastructure projects. Say, whether to have an extra airport runway in the south east. Or the Mersey Gateway Bridge which opened last year in 2017, originally proposed in 1994. Large sums of public and private money were spent on designing the Garden Bridge scheme in London when it was finally scrapped by Mayor Sadiq Khan last year as a waste of public funds.

In 2015 the National Infrastructure Commission was formed to think about infrastructure 30 years into the future, and what we, as a country, need to consider how to make that vision happen - with a budget. It doesn’t require a magic pot of money or significant costs to the taxpayer, but considers how we can use Government-funding guidelines, additional revenue streams and budgets to make the vision a reality. The National Infrastructure Assessment was just launched. One recommendation includes devolved powers to cities in making transport decisions. Well, the people living in an area have a better idea about what their towns and cities need, so it makes sense to let them be the decision makers. Another is a national standard for flood resilience for all communities by 2015. Climate change is real, and in the UK we see its effects with dramatic climate events such as flooding. With current flood resilience funding, there is a tendency to fix the easiest problems. This proposal is so that everyone is equally protected. 

So why should we care? The work done by the National Infrastructure Commission is provided as advice to the Government. They have six months to respond on whether they will take it forward. Rather than a “yes” or “no”, the Government should provide a more detailed response. Their response is largely driven by how the people they represent (you, me, their constituents across the country) feel. That’s why I feel it is important to get involved and make your local representatives aware of how you feel.

After all, it directly affects your everyday future life.