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UK must 'utterly transform' infrastructure planning as survey reveals public scepticism

Only 6 per cent of the British public believe that infrastructure projects in the UK are part of a well-co-ordinated national or local plan.

Shadow infrastructure minister Lord Adonis

Shadow infrastructure minister Lord Adonis one point four image size

Shadow infrastructure minister Lord Adonis

In a survey of public attitudes to infrastructure across the UK, 87 per cent of respondents said they supported investment in infrastructure, but many felt that major projects happened ‘to them’ rather than ‘for them.

The report, Independent survey of attitudes to infrastructure in Great Britain 2015, was launched this morning in Westminster by recently appointed chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis.

Commenting on the survey’s findings, he warned that the UK had to “utterly transform the way we plan and deliver major projects”.

Respondents also said they thought that developers had too much power over infrastructure, with 58 per cent agreeing that “the balance of power is too much in favour of developers’ plans over the wishes of communities”.

Asked which types of infrastructure should be investment priorities for the UK, more people favoured renewable energy and housebuilding than rail and road projects, while there was apparently little support for airport expansion.

Given the choice of up to three types of infrastructure projects, only 8 per cent named airports as an investment priority.

This compared with 43 per cent who selected renewable energy and 39 per cent who named building more homes as a priority.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents said railways should be a priority, while motorway projects were selected by 28 per cent and 19 per cent named nuclear power.

Lord Adonis said: “This report is timely and vital. For too long the British people have been forced to put up with chaos, congestion and costs, thanks to successive governments’ failure to build the long-term infrastructure this country needs.

”So as we establish the independent National Infrastructure Commission, it is clear we have to utterly transform the way we plan and deliver major projects in this country.

“This survey shows that the public want proper investment and planning behind world-class developments. But while the support is there for real improvement, people rightly demand proper engagement and genuine consultation.”

Institution of Civil Engineers president Sir John Armitt, who is also a member of the NIC, added: “Public interest in infrastructure is as much driven by fear of disrupted lives as it is by a promise of greater convenience, speed or improved quality of life. The challenge for us all – ICE, government and the NIC alike – is to open up the debate and address these fears.

“Our ability to explain – in plain language – what we are trying to achieve and why, to be prepared to consider alternative solutions and to put ourselves in the public’s shoes is absolutely vital if we are to gain sufficient political and public support, without which important projects simply cannot proceed.”

The survey, published by Copper Consultancy and Icaro in partnership with Peter Brett Associates (PBA), featured interviews with 2,000 people from across the UK.

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