ACE and EIC respond to NIC assessment on UK infrastructure development

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The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has welcomed the latest infrastructure assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), which states reliable infrastructure can support economic growth, help tackle climate change and enhance the natural environment.

The latest five yearly assessment from the NIC, which sets out recommendations to the Government for developing the UK’s infrastructure over the next three decades, acknowledged the ACE group in its report, following a series of engagement sessions carried out on behalf of its 400 members.

In a statement on its website, ACE acknowledged the assessment had been published at a time when industry is eagerly awaiting the publication of the government infrastructure pipeline, as well as the Chancellor’s autumn statement.

The organisation says its members are crucial when it comes to realising the goals of the assessment and adds that it reflects much of the feedback from members of ACE and the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC).

“In the submission, the ACE group called for clarity and consistency of messaging from central Government,” the ACE statement said.

“The submission also reinforced how Government support is crucial to member ambitions to drive economic growth.

“Whether this is through actions such as a loans scheme to assist organisations in delivering energy efficient projects, facilitating access to high quality asset datasets for both the public and private sector or long-term policy stability and funding.

“The ACE group welcome’s the Commission’s recognition of the need to support the delivery of projects with a culture of certainty.”

ACE said continued delays, restarts and re-scoping contributed to a “fear of uncertainty and doubt” that the industry and investors were currently feeling.

“ACE and EIC members are working at the forefront of sustainability innovation and progress and recognise the significant opportunities for decarbonisation and climate change mitigation,” the statement from ACE went on. 

“These measures include adopting a circular economy approach within the built environment, such as clean economic growth, a reduction in waste exports, and self-sufficient resource management; or local actions such as increasing the access to and use of active travel. 

“It is encouraging to see measures such as these identified in the assessment.”

The ACE added the assessment was an “important intervention” to set out the path to net zero and beyond, whilst nurturing economic growth and protecting the natural world. 

“It sets out what is needed from any government that will be in power after the next election, and the ACE Group looks forward to sharing members’ expertise and insight to achieve these goals,” the ACE statement said.

Further reaction included acknowledgement from James Corrigan, UK managing director, infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, who acknowledged a call for long-term certainty from government on infrastructure programmes sat "at the heart of this report". 

"However, the reality is that the industry is bracing itself for a year of political push and pull as we head towards a general election," he added.

“Political commitment and consensus is absolutely critical if we are to make headway on the NIC’s recommendations not just in the year ahead, but the decades to come. 

“Crucially, this matters for investors."

Speaking of the estimated need for a 25 to 30% rise in private investment from current levels through the 2030s and 2040s, he added: "That will only come if the UK can reassure funders that there is a plan and we are sticking to it.

“The construction sector itself sits in the same bracket.   

It is the engine behind the changes we need to see, but the industry is fragile and the scale of the challenge is immense – made all the more difficult by soaring insolvencies, sticky inflation and tight taxpayer and household budgets." 

He concluded a clear pipeline of programmes and funding is "more needed than ever to build confidence and maintain a supply chain which can deliver on ambitions”. 

Logistics UK’s Chief Executive David Wells OBE expressed the sector’s disappointment at the lack of consideration given to the needs of logistics businesses.

“If our industry is to continue to deliver for the UK’s economy, we need confirmation of how this is to happen and fast – our members are the backbone of all activity for both businesses and consumers and need concrete plans now which they can implement in order to progress," he said.

“As an industry, we are committed to decarbonising, but the infrastructure to support this change still does not exist.

"2050 is still some way off, but our city centres cannot be revitalised without the delivery networks that our members provide to make them work.

“The National Infrastructure Assessment's call for a long-term infrastructure strategy free from political considerations, is a positive step to address productivity and capacity issues.

"If the plan is to facilitate genuine change and revitalise the UK’s economy, it is vital that spending on infrastructure is considered as a down payment on future growth, not an easy target for cuts, by this and future governments.”

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