In Business growth and finance, Economic assets and infrastructure, News

Representatives from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, all seven local authorities and the region’s business community came together today (13 November) to discuss the future of infrastructure in the UK as part of a visit by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The organisation, which provides expert, impartial advice to government on infrastructure – is currently touring the country to discuss its recently published National Infrastructure Assessment.  The first of its kind for the UK, it analyses the UK’s long-term economic infrastructure needs, outlines a strategic vision over the next 30 years and sets out recommendations on how the identified needs should be met.

Published once a parliament, today’s event was an opportunity for the North East to provide feedback on the assessment and discuss how the recommendations will support economic prosperity in the region.

Organised by the North East LEP, attendees met with Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, and Bridget Rosewell OBE, Commissioner at the National Infrastructure Commission.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP said: “It’s important for us as a region to plan for the long-term recommendations in the National Infrastructure Assessment and respond to the opportunities and challenges it raises. Having the chance to discuss its impact on the North East and how it fits with our Strategic Economic Plan has been a fantastic opportunity.

“We’re keen to identify areas where the North East can take forward work to shape areas like digital connectivity, management of flooding and new transport investments, and how we can ensure the region benefits from future infrastructure funding.

“We were able to bring together key representatives from the public and private sector to learn more about the Assessment and provide feedback to Sir John and his colleagues about the region’s response to it.

“It’s great to see the National Infrastructure Commission consulting the North East on issues that will have a significant impact our region and we look forward to working with them to establish a future co-operative approach.”

The National Infrastructure Assessment puts forward a series of recommendations on six key areas; building a digital society, low cost and low carbon energy, revolutionising road transport, transport and housing for thriving city regions, reducing the risks of drought and flooding, and choosing and designing infrastructure. Government has 12 months to formally respond to the Assessment.

Sir John Armitt CBE, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “From the redevelopment of the Gateshead Quays to South Shields’ new transport interchange, it’s clear that councils and businesses across the North East are keeping a strong focus on improving local infrastructure for the benefit of residents.

“Our National Infrastructure Assessment – a first for the UK – has strong recommendations which, if adopted, could make a real difference for the region. In particular, our call for a truly national charging network for electric vehicles would support take-up across the country, as well as here at the home of the Nissan Leaf.

“This, and our proposals for devolving more transport funding to cities rolling out full-fibre broadband and providing more energy from low-carbon sources, would benefit the region and the country as a whole, and I hope local leaders will make the case to ministers to make them a reality.”

Held at the offices of Ward Hadaway in Newcastle, the roundtable discussion explored the opportunities and challenges of the Assessment for the region and how the North East can help take them forward.

Organisations representing the region included; the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Nexus, Environment Agency, Newcastle International Airport, North East Combined Authority (NECA), the region’s local authorities and the newly formed North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Colin Hewitt, Partner and Head of the Commercial team at Ward Hadaway, said: “We are delighted to host this roundtable discussion. It will give us a chance to talk about the types of infrastructure the UK should be investing in and also establish a new way to think about infrastructure closer to home, with a focus on how it affects our quality of life and the success of the North East economy.”

For more information about the National Infrastructure Commission and to read the National Infrastructure Assessment, visit www.nic.org.uk.

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Victoria Sutherland