WMCA points government to priority projects

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) leaders today (Wed Jan 18) highlighted the importance of HS2, an expanded Birmingham Airport and the Midlands Connect project during a conference to help set out the Midlands’ infrastructure priorities.

The WMCA welcomed a delegation from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), chaired by Lord Adonis, to its headquarters in Summer Lane, Birmingham.

The Midlands is one of the first areas of the country to host the NIC as part of its fact-finding tour to assess the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Some 30 key regional stakeholders attended the conference and heard how the work of the NIC team was developing.

The conference saw delegates put forward their own three priorities for infrastructure investment in the Midlands over the next 20 years – covering areas such as transport, digital, energy, waste or water.

They also outlined what they saw as potential barriers to such investment.

WMCA chair Cllr Bob Sleigh OBE said: “This was an excellent – and early - opportunity for us to influence the vision and priorities of the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).

“This is the UK’s first comprehensive assessment of the short, medium and long-term infrastructure needs and policies of the different regions.

“We emphasised our priorities as HS2 and its connectivity in the region, the importance of driving forward the expansion of Birmingham Airport and of us all backing Midlands Connect – not just for our region but for connecting to the East Midlands, to the north and south.

“After all the infrastructure that’s good for the Midlands is also good for the UK.”

NIC chair Lord Adonis said: “One of our big themes is to understand how we can significantly enhance the use of existing infrastructure.

“Today’s event has been extremely valuable and we want to make it an ongoing dialogue.

“A big lesson I draw from this is the need for effective regional infrastructure planning - and the interaction between regional and national is crucial.

“Getting that right in the Midlands will be a critical issue.”

WMCA chief executive Martin Reeves added:  “We welcome this visit from such a high profile commission at such a critical time for devolution and the Midlands Engine Strategy in the West Midlands – as we await the Industrial Strategy Green Paper.

“From the West Midlands point of view it was a great opportunity to make clear the need for infrastructure, including transport, digital and energy, to be thought through to help support our ambitious plans outlined in our Strategic Economic Plan to double output and create half a million new jobs over the next 15 years.”

Commissioners are undertaking a series of events across the country to discuss and understand local perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of the UK’s national infrastructure and the requirements and opportunities to improve efficiency and competitiveness over the coming three decades.

The NIA is a world first in size and scope – assessing economic infrastructure within, across and between geographies and sectors.

It was established to change the way the UK plans and delivers major infrastructure projects in this country and will publish a National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) in 2018.

This will be a once per Parliament, strategic assessment of the UK’s infrastructure requirements over the coming 30 years.

It is chaired by Lord Adonis and will make recommendations to HM Treasury and Government.

As confirmed in the 2016 Autumn Statement, Government invited the NIC to set out recommendations on the assumption that spending on infrastructure will lie between 1% and 1.2% of GDP each year from 2020 to 2050.

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