Can we build a public mandate for infrastructure?

On 24 February Green Alliance launched a new report, Opening up infrastructure planning.

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  1. Lord Andrew Adonis, shadow infrastructure minister, addressed the event, followed by a panel debate with Amy Mount from Green Alliance, John Pettigrew, executive director UK for National Grid, and Simon Roberts, chief executive of the Centre for Sustainable Energy. Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, chaired the discussion.
  2. The report calls for greater engagement in infrastructure decision making. Without this, even the most strategic infrastructure plan will remain at risk of failure, with projects delayed by controversy and protest. In contrast, building meaningful engagement in will strengthen the public mandate for the new infrastructure that the UK requires for the transition to a low carbon economy.
  3. Lord Adonis set out his view that the critical thing missing in the UK is a strategic plan for infrastructure, which the Labour Armitt review plans to introduce. It will include consulation, but Adonis seemed to focus heavily on parliamentary scrutiny as a proxy for this.
  4. He highlighted the concern that engagement can lead to delay and noted that housing is likely to be one of the key infrastructure challenges of the coming parliament.
  5. Amy Mount then gave an overview of the key recommendations in her report. Green Alliance has proposed the creation of Citizen Voice as an impartial body to support public engagement in infrastructure planning. In particular, it could support civil society input into a national infrastructure plan, as well as supporting tangible, place based infrastructure dialogues at the city and county level.
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  7. John Pettigrew from National Grid went on to set out the value that greater public engagement could offer companies like his, rather than it only beginning once projects are already in progress. A compelling narrative about the value of infrastructure would support them in engaging with communities.
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