Greater public engagement urged

December 6 2017   | Region: Cymru Wales, East Midlands, East of England, London, North East & Cumbria, North West, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South East, South West, West Midlands, Yorkshire & the Humber

Greater public engagement urged

Local people must become more involved in the planning of major infrastructure projects, according to think tank the Institute for Government.

It calls on Government to create a new commission for public engagement which it says would reduce costly delays by giving people a genuine opportunity to influence decisions.

A commission for public engagement would have three main roles: to facilitate deliberations with a panel of citizens to discuss policy options for inclusion in a national infrastructure strategy; to convene public debates when new or revised National Policy Statements are developed; and to provide advice to project sponsors undertaking consultations.

Encouraging local people to become more involved in projects is said to work well in France, where the Commission Nationale du Débat Public has reportedly led to a reduction in public opposition to major schemes.

Stakeholder engagement champion Jo Field MCIHT from JFG Communications welcomed the call for a new infrastructure commission. She said: “Strengthening the National Infrastructure Commission and creating a commission for public engagement would improve public involvement in the planning of major infrastructure projects.

“It would help to explain the benefits of such schemes and ensure decision makers hear the voices of the people their decisions will directly affect. This will mean better policy decisions are made,” she said. “Better engagement will also help to build public support and advocacy for major projects. Schemes with greater public support are more likely to go ahead.”

The Institute for Government also says that an absence of a national infrastructure strategy has serious implications for the country and that co-ordination between different parts of Government and UK regions is poor, resulting in less beneficial infrastructure being taken forward.

It calls on the Government to develop a national infrastructure strategy to co-ordinate the work of central and local government and to spell out more clearly its impact on all regions. Reinstating the position of Commercial Secretary to the Treasury is also encouraged – with their portfolio focused on infrastructure – and for the National Infrastructure Commission’s independence and mandate to strengthen.

The Institute’s associate director Nick Davies said: “With no overarching strategy and projects spread across eight different government departments and various tiers of local government, it is no wonder infrastructure decisions in this country continue to be plagued by uncertainty, delays and increased costs.”

(Photo: Highways England)

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