855: Budget 2020 and planning statement
Today’s entry reports on what Wednesday’s budget and Thursday’s planning statement mean for infrastructure.
The speech mentions level(ling) up seven times and the budget document mentions it 31 times. The former mentions infrastructure five times and the latter 74 times. Despite that, the National Infrastructure Strategy was not published at the same time but will be ‘later in the spring’.
Notwithstanding that delay, it turns out that Rishi stands for ‘Roads Investment Strategy for Highways Ingland’. The biggest announcement infrastructure-wise was that £27.4 billion is to be spent on National Highways’s strategic road network – even more than the heralded £25.3 billion. A couple of hours after the budget, the second Roads Investment Strategy (RIS2) was published, despite rumours that it had been delayed (eg here).
RIS2 sets out the projects at various stages of development between 2020 and 2025 (road period 2) on which the money will be spent – there is no let-up in the number of National Highways Development Consent Order applications we can expect.
One that isn’t so favoured is the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which has been paused, despite fending off a judicial review last year. However, the arc in which it lies is still getting attention with a ‘long-term Spatial Framework’, including up to four new settlements along the route, each potentially with a development corporation.
In other news, support for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is back on, with ‘at least £800 million’ pledged to support a mid-2020s project, a 2030 project and a CCS power station, particulars as yet unidentified. This is almost as much as the £1 billion previously pledged in 2012 and then withdrawn in November 2015.
£500 million is allocated over five years to ensure you are never more than 30 miles from a rapid electric car charging point. Begone, range anxiety!
£5.1 billion is allocated over six years to ensure an additional 336,000 homes are protected from flooding.
And finally, in a series of targeted announcements, it is good news if you live in Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Tyne & Wear, Preston, Sheffield, Norwich, Stoke-on-Trent, Bournemouth / Christchurch / Poole, Plymouth, Portsmouth or Southampton (so not all in the north), which get at least £33 million each for specific transport improvements (see paragraph 2.84).
Despite the CCS and flooding announcements, the Committee on Climate Change was not convinced by the splashing of cash. Its chief executive said:
‘This budget doesn’t close the climate policy gap’.
Noting that although there were steps in the right direction, a lot of climate change-related announcements were still to come.
On Thursday the somewhat less new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (HoCoLoGo) Robert Jenrick MP gave a statement about planning. The associated document is not the anticipated white paper yet but heralds various things including that. It is certainly digestible at a mere 11 pages.
It is, as ever, mainly concerned with housing delivery. The fuller planning white paper will come ‘in the spring’, and this will establish a ‘planning system that works for the next century’. Is that the 22nd century? Even the next 100 years is quite a bold claim. I am also a bit confused where it goes on to say that (para 18) over spring and summer the government will work with others to shape a long-term programme of reform, which will inform the white paper – despite apparently concluding after its publication.
The white paper will also ‘propose measures to accelerate planning’. That is an oft-made, but rarely fulfilled, claim. The trouble is that the new measures are usually tacked onto the existing much-amended system and add to a cacophony of options. These particular measures will include a new fee structure, an increase in ‘zoning’ tools such as Local Development Orders and a reform of the (already recently reformed) Compulsory Purchase Order system.