Commenting on the launch of the National Infrastructure Assessment today (Tuesday), Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“Business will welcome this long-term plan for infrastructure investment, and particularly the focus on digital and transport connectivity, but business communities have seen plans come and go before, so it’s action that’s required above all else. We need politicians of all parties, and at a local and national level, to get behind these recommendations, give certainty and confidence to investors and bring about faster infrastructure delivery on the ground to fix the fundamentals of the domestic business environment.
“The assessment rightly recognises that the UK needs to invest more in infrastructure, with a range of funding solutions, and that private-sector investment has an important role to play. The existence and rapid growth of Business Improvement Districts proves that when the case stacks up and the benefits are felt directly, businesses will pay more to improve the competitiveness of their local area. We are slightly more sceptical about local infrastructure levies. Councils already have tools to front-fund development, but land and property values are such that they rarely work outside of London. Any new mechanism linked to business rates would need extensive consultation, strict limits, and be ring-fenced for specific improvements.
“The Commission recognises that supporting the Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail 2 will deliver essential connectivity improvements for the North and London. We also welcome the focus on up-grading major urban roads and tackling congestion and public transport needs at a city level. This will help to unlock economic growth, improve journey times and reliability, aid access to skills and cut business costs.”
On Digital, Jane added:
“We welcome the call for investment in nationwide full-fibre digital connectivity. Fast and reliable digital access is key to business productivity and is now an essential service for people in all aspects of life and needs to be delivered as quickly as possible.”
On Energy, she said:
“Energy infrastructure must deliver predictable, reliable, stable and affordable heat and power to business. The focus on sustainable renewable energies – and greater energy efficiency – is welcome. But, businesses will be seeking assurances that the UK has the right mix and balance of energy sources in the future to prevent any risk of interruption to supply.”