New NIC Report – First Step towards a National Plan and Return of Regional Planning?

Terms of Reference Published with the Budget yesterday

In the National Infrastructure Strategy the government set out a high level of ambition in using infrastructure to support levelling up and regeneration.

To support the government’s work in this area, the National Infrastructure Commission will conduct a study on how to maximise the benefits of infrastructure policy and investment for towns.

This study will focus attention on places outside city centres specifically towns and suburban centres. It will:

  • Undertake analysis to provide an evidence base on the potential economic and quality of life benefits of infrastructure interventions in towns with different characteristics. Relevant characteristics would include not just those of a town itself (e.g. skills and industrial mix) but also its wider context (e.g. strength of links to surrounding towns and cities). It will also test whether there is a category of places that might benefit from more intensive improvements (e.g. because infrastructure is more obviously the key constraint), or an even spread approach getting the basics right everywhere that gives better results.
  • Explore the impact of COVID-19 on towns, testing where and how local infrastructure policy needs to be shifted to deal with identifiable post-pandemic changes in behaviour; where uncertainty on behaviour persists, it will assess the most sensible approach to local infrastructure policy under uncertainty.
  • Explore local delivery and capability, including how to ensure that regionally-significant but locally-owned projects can be co-ordinated across a wider area, and that local infrastructure strategies are joined up with planning, housing, skills and industrial strategy. This will include looking at what role the new infrastructure bank for the UK could play. Changes to local government structure and authority boundaries are out of the scope of this study.

The study should focus on transport and digital infrastructure in particular.

The study should focus on towns in England. However, the Commission should ensure that any recommendations in reserved areas (digital and the UK Infrastructure Bank) are applicable across the whole of the UK.

The NIC should deliver a final report to government by the end of September 2021, setting out recommendations to government.

All recommendations should be consistent with the Commission’s fiscal and economic remits.

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