23 October 2018

One year on from the National Infrastructure Commission's final report, what is it that England's Economic Heartland is looking for from this year's Budget?

My time dealing with planning applications in the past has taught me that private sector investors are looking for confidence before making a decision. Time and again the call I've heard is for clarity on the ambition and certainty that planned investment in infrastructure and services will be delivered when we say it'll be.  And in truth our residents and communities likewise look for that confidence - sceptical that investment often comes after the event, not in time for it.

The scale of economic potential identified by the National Infrastructure Commission is a long-term project.  What we need is a framework that can engender confidence – for both communities and investors. 

That is why we believe what is needed is a National Policy Statement for the Heartland.

Until now used to focus on a single topic – like energy - there is no reason why we cannot use the legislative framework that exists and apply it to a geographical area. 

It would be a clear statement of intent by Westminster that the UK's commitment to the Heartland is long-term.  Even better it would be a simple and effective way of 'joining up' investment in strategic infrastructure. 

At a stroke we would have a quick and efficient way of aligning investment decisions on transport, with that on digital infrastructure with that on power and water; ensuring that investment in infrastructure and services is aligned to deliver our shared ambition – realising the potential of the Heartland to be the UK's equivalent of Silicon Valley.

Since the idea was originally discussed at the start of the year I've been really encouraged by the positive reaction, so much so that we're developing it to the point where we can have a further, detailed, conversation with Government.

This year's Budget is an opportunity for Government to build on this idea and make a clear statement of intent that its support for the Heartland is long-term.

Martin Tugwell is the Programme Director of England's Economic Heartland