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Infrastructure can’t be ‘planned’ in isolation

Keeping the National Infrastructure Plan up to date is a bit like the old joke about painting the Forth Bridge - as soon as you’ve finished, you need to start again.

For the pipeline to be genuinely useful to contractors making plans for their businesses, it not only needs to be the most up-to-date list of infrastructure projects that will go ahead, but contain a far greater level of detail - especially on the anticipated stages of projects.

Construction News understands this is exactly what the committee set up to oversee the plan - the snappily titled National Infrastructure Plan Strategic Engagement Forum - is proposing, along with greater detail on the year ahead and the inclusion of housing, hospitals and schools as ‘social’ infrastructure.

Key detail

The importance of the last recommendation can’t be overstated.

With housebuilding leading the industry’s recovery by a country mile and politicians calling for even more homes, including mayor of London Boris Johnson this week, development must be planned in tandem with wider infrastructure.

“KPMG has also warned this week that it fears companies may be “taken by surprise” by the £45bn of infrastructure work it estimates there will be in 2016”

In January, I chaired a debate on housing and transport with panellists including former transport secretary Andrew Adonis, shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds and Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Grainia Long. All three remarked on how rare it was for housing and transport to be discussed together.

Yet they must be - for policy’s and projects’ sake too; it makes no sense for elements of major infrastructure to be ‘planned’ in isolation.

There is also clearly a need for industry firms to be able to plan their involvement in infrastructure and construction even before projects have been given an official Treasury stamp of approval.

Being prepared

The pipeline published by Glenigan this week includes an additional £60bn of work, such as Crossrail 2, that of course contractors need to prepare for, even while they know it’s not certain to go ahead.

KPMG has also warned this week that it fears companies may be “taken by surprise” by the £45bn of infrastructure work it estimates there will be in 2016 if they don’t gear up now.

Central to this, once again, is comprehensive action on skills planning and development.

As the industry recovers, the government and the industry as a whole must do everything possible to boost the number of apprentices and other entrants - or re-entrants - to the industry.

In the wake of National Apprenticeship Week last week, our industry analysis has top tips and best practice to help everyone play their part.

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