Just days after Boris Johnson’s well-received 10 point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, now it is the turn of Rishi Sunak to talk infrastructure. For those of us with a particular interest in infrastructure, transport and energy developments, there are a number of highlights from Rishi’s announcements today. Those with an interest in infra in the Regions are likely to be encouraged.
National Infrastructure Bank – Expected for some time, this is an important development for a number of reasons. It is intended to fill a gap left by the European Investment Bank, to which the UK will shortly no longer have access due to Brexit, and is intended to ‘catalyse private investment in infrastructure projects across the UK’. Structured well, this could be a key tool in post-COVID infra developments (although with hindsight perhaps the Government might have held on to and expanded the Green Investment Bank?). Notably, this institution is to be based in the North of England, away from Whitehall.
Levelling Up Fund – As well as ‘build build build’ and ‘build back better’, ‘levelling up’ is another oft-quoted phrase in this COVID impacted world. Rishi has committed £4bn to this fund which is to support the regeneration of towns and communities, and to invest in ‘local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people’. Government envisages local bids for ‘high value local projects’ of up to £20m each with examples given such as road and bypass schemes, railway station upgrades, bus lanes, town centre regen. Expect this fund to be heavily oversubscribed: the challenge for Government will be prioritizing applicant areas with particular need, perhaps in the North, perhaps coastal areas.
Green Book Reform – Although a dry, technical subject, the Green Book set outs the formulae for running project appraisals and assessing economic benefit. After some years of market comment, the Government has now published a ‘refreshed’ Green Book, that will better take into account potential investments, levelling up and address regional imbalances. This will be particularly welcomed by the promoters of projects in the regions who have long observed that the Green Book can inadvertently favour projects in London and the Home Counties.
All encouraging developments. Now we wait for the policy developments of the past few days to turn into real schemes…..