New infrastructure can bring billions to national economy

A new deal between Whitehall and local leaders could add hundreds of billions of pounds to the national economy each year and lead to the first new towns in the UK for half a century, Lord Adonis has said.

The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission has urged ministers and council leaders across the country covering Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton and Cambridge, to ’seize the opportunity’ and unleash the area’s economic potential.

He urged them to work together to deliver new and improved infrastructure, helping to unlock opportunities to deliver one million new homes and jobs by 2050 including the country’s first new towns in 50 years - tackling the area’s housing shortage, improving local transport connections and creating new jobs.

He highlighted that these measures can be taken while at the same time protecting and enhancing the natural environment of the area, and without making changes to existing Green Bolt protections.

The area currently generates £90 billion per year towards the national economy. These steps could potentially increase this figure to over £250 billion a year - an increase of over £160 billion.

The report also includes recommendations that by 2020: new powers should be put in place as part of the deal, giving councils in the area greater certainty over future investments, and allowing them to fund and raise finance for major infrastructure improvements that deliver new homes; the government and local authorities should have an agreed plan for new and expanded housing settlements, supported by New Town Development Corporations and new infrastructure design panels; and new statutory spatial plans and investment strategies for each sub-region should be developed, as part of a 50-year vision for the arc as a whole.

Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “The arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford attracts the brightest and best from some of the most cutting edge industries. But the area also suffers from a lack of available homes and an infrastructure network that is feeling the strain – pricing local people out of the market, making it difficult for businesses to recruit staff, and threatening the future competitiveness of one of the most successful parts of the country.

“A ground-breaking deal between ministers and local leaders could transform the area, helping to double the rate of housebuilding and deliver the first new towns this country has seen for half a century. With this one of the most economically important parts of the UK, it could add billions of pounds a year to the national economy.

“I urge local leaders to seize this opportunity and work together with government, both for the benefit of their residents and of the country as a whole – all by delivering a million new homes and jobs by 2050, investing in improved road and rail links and protecting the area’s natural environment.”

James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “By harnessing the potential of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc we can deliver the new infrastructure, house building and jobs that the country and the people of our region need, and subsequently, adding billions of pounds to the local and national economy. Pushing forward the delivery of the East-West rail line is a major step towards seizing the opportunities for growth that this region offers.

“This National Infrastructure Commission report signals the start of a ground-breaking relationship between central government and local authorities, and the Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is committed to working alongside our partners and playing our part in delivering on the huge promise which our region offers.”

Pete Marland, leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “We welcome the National Infrastructure Commission’s view that Milton Keynes should once again become a project of national significance. We also strongly support the recommendation that to enable growth, local authorities require certainty on the timing and funding for infrastructure delivery.

“The Commission’s report matches our ambitions for the next stage of Milton Keynes expansion, as outlined by the MK Futures 2050 Commission, of inclusive growth, better access to affordable housing, a new technological university and the creation of thousands more highly skilled jobs.

“Milton Keynes now looks forward to working with Government and our neighbours on how we can meet the challenges of delivering significant extra growth across the corridor. The Commission’s report is a strong starting point for an open dialogue on how we can best achieve the requirement for growth while meeting the aspirations of local people.”

Bob Price, chair of the Oxfordshire growth board and leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxfordshire is at the centre of the UK’s knowledge-based economy. This region is already growing strongly and the Oxford-Cambridge ‘brain belt’ offers an opportunity to create a fourth economic powerhouse for the UK to rival those in London, the Midlands and the North. I very much welcome the Commission’s recognition that to achieve this will require much more investment in infrastructure and provision of more high quality affordable housing, as well as social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, while protecting our high-quality environment.

“I welcome the Commission’s ambition to see infrastructure investment taken forward quickly across the arc. We will work closely with colleagues across the arc to ensure the growth is properly planned, is sustainable and works in the interests of existing and well as future residents. In particular, we want to improve connectivity and tackle congestion to make Oxfordshire an easier place for everyone to travel around.”

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