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Planning for London’s next period of growth

What infrastructure does London need to grow?  How do we deliver it?  Big questions for the capital’s future that we asked at a Portland Local breakfast with speakers from London First and ComRes.

With an economic recovery taking hold, particularly in London, infrastructure priorities rank high on the political agenda. And a year before a landmark General Election, they gain increased importance.

Population pressures make delivering new infrastructure a necessity – London’s population is growing at almost double the rate of the rest of the country.

Crossrail, and perhaps even Crossrail 2, will ease capacity problems on London’s tube network.  The Thames Tideway Tunnel offers a solution to our antiquated sewerage system.  But questions remain.

Are our politicians brave enough to invest in unpopular projects?  And can we trust them to make the right choices?  Will we get the additional airport capacity we need so badly?  Will HS2 happen?

Polling expert and Managing Director of ComRes, Katharine Peacock, gave an insight into public attitudes towards major infrastructure projects

She outlined how people increasingly see them from a personal perspective.  They want better roads and better public transport but have little knowledge of the financial costs.  When projects are eventually agreed, deliverability becomes a major challenge – almost two thirds of the public oppose a planning application at some point.  Understanding the dynamics of local community engagement has never been more important.

Director of Infrastructure Policy at London First, David Leam, added his thoughts to the debate.  He described the major challenge as communicating to the public why we actually need big, expensive new infrastructure.

Despite talking ourselves down, the quality of much of our infrastructure compares favourably with many of our international competitors.  The problem is a capacity crisis as we struggle to meet the needs of a growing population.  So when we do find the funding and major projects such as Crossrail go ahead, London needs to take full advantage and demonstrate their full potential.  They offer opportunities for new housing, businesses and all kinds of social infrastructure.

The Infrastructure Bill expected in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech is another indication that the Government is keen to be seen to back new infrastructure projects.  Labour have made similar noises in Opposition and would face the same challenges in government.  The political will from the top looks to be there.  Winning support on the ground is a different matter, in London and elsewhere.

The Portland Local team provide strategic advice and grassroots delivery around some of the UK’s most significant and sensitive infrastructure and planning projects.  We enable a number of the UK’s leading businesses and organisations to engage effectively with local communities and decision-makers.

f you think there is anything Portland Local can do to help you meet your commercial priorities, support you in navigating the planning process or assist you in building grassroots advocacy for your projects, please do get in touch with Kevin McKeever at kevin.mckeever@portland-communications.com

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Written By

Hugo Sutherland