The new UK Infrastructure Act has become law this week, introducing new measures to make it easier, quicker and simpler to get the country building. The act will allow the creation of Highways England (HE), a government-owned company that will use access to long term stable funding to ensure improvements on the country’s major road network are streamlined, cost efficient and encourage investment. Highways England will replace the existing Highways Agency (HA) this spring, and the new body will have overall control of England’s motorways and major trunk roads, which form the Strategic Roads Network (SRN). The legislation will also give local people the right to buy a stake in renewable energy projects, while cutting red tape for nationally significant infrastructure projects to boost investment.
The act will: turn the HA into a government-owned company, HE, to make the new arms-length company more accountable to Parliament and road users; end unreasonable and excessive delays on projects that have already been granted planning permission, by a new ‘deemed discharge’ provision on planning conditions, which will help speed up road building; set a cycling and walking investment strategy; give local communities the right to buy a stake in renewable energy infrastructure projects; enable surplus and redundant public sector land and property to be sold more quickly by cutting red tape, increasing the amount of previously used land available for new projects; and improve the nationally significant infrastructure regime by making a number of technical administrative improvements to the Planning Act 2008, following a review of how the act has operated. The new measures are aimed at driving investment, making it easier, quicker and simpler to get infrastructure projects completed.
Announcing the act’s implementation, UK Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said, “This act will hugely boost Britain’s competitiveness in transport, energy provision, housing development and nationally significant infrastructure projects. Cost efficient infrastructure development is all part of the government’s long term economic plan, boosting competitiveness, jobs and growth. A key part of this act will be the creation of Highways England, which will for the first time use long-term sustained funding to deliver the government’s roads investment strategy, worth £15bn (US$23bn), to deliver more than 100 schemes between now and the end of the next Parliament. Good transport is fundamental in helping our economy grow, which is why the government is making record levels of investment. That’s why we’re building a transport system that helps you get on and get around. Through the creation of Highways England we expect to see savings to the taxpayer of at least £2.6bn (US$4bn) over the next 10 years.”