Gearing up for Infrastructure Investment: Stakeholders target needs

Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced London’s first long-term Infrastructure Investment Plan at his Vision 2020 launch in June, and the GLA has been busy scoping the project since. On December 16th, Future of London joined the first IIP stakeholder day at City Hall, to explore options for meeting London’s growing infrastructure needs.

Central to the success of the IIP is a clear understanding of context. London’s population is booming, projected to grow to 11.3 million people by 2050. How will the Capital’s infrastructure handle the demands of 3 million more Londoners when systems of all kinds are already straining to serve today’s population?

Aimed at central and local policymakers, investors and the general public, the Plan sets infrastructure as an absolute requirement for a resilient and competitive London. Transport, energy, waste, water, green infrastructure, telecommunications, and social infrastructure – including housing – all fall within the IIP’s wide remit.

That spectrum is already ambitious, but the IIP’s mandate is even more so: to clearly identify the capital’s infrastructure needs through 2050, cost them, and find ways to fund and finance them.

Facilitated by cities expert Greg Clark, the Dec 16th session brought together representatives from the public, private and third sectors to test the IIP’s emerging findings. The GLA’s call for evidence and responses from the day revealed a few cross-cutting themes, including:

  • This is not just a long-term planning exercise aimed at a 2050 solution. Existing pressure points and the degree to which demand is already unmet mean there’s an urgent need to plan and deliver infrastructure that serves us today.
  • Demand management, and realising efficiencies, must be part of the equation. Tensions created by driving demand through increased capacity should be considered.
  • New ways of funding capital investment will be vital for maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure, as well as undertaking new projects – for example, considering the London Finance Commission’s recommendation for the devolution of property taxes to the Capital.

Jeremy Skinner, GLA Senior Manager for Growth and Enterprise, laid out the IIP context and emerging findings, and the day also included expert panellists, lively Q&A sessions, and a series of sector-based working groups. Future of London Director Lisa Taylor chaired the housing workshop, which included briefings from GLA draft housing strategy leads Alan Benson and Nick Taylor. The housing group raised both thorny questions and possible approaches such as:

  • how to stretch from the anticipated capacity of 42,000 homes built per year to the 50,000-60,000 needed to meet projections – and do it fairly, for all who need housing;
  • how to address attitudes about density within central London, and how to build workable agreements with Southeast England authorities likely to absorb some of London’s overflow;
  • setting hard affordable-housing percentages for development, and considering Housing Zones that would have funding and planning powers as Enterprise Zones do;
  • improving the quality of the private rented sector, and exploring more avenues for getting on the home-ownership ladder;
  • exploring funding and finance mechanisms such as a London Housing Bank to provide a revolving fund for affordable homes, or even a bond for overseas – and/or other – property investors that could help fund housing and related infrastructure.

A key IIP objective is building support for infrastructure development and spending, including finding ways for stakeholders to visualise the need for it. One image that resonated with this audience was the GLA’s assertion that Ealing in 2050 could have a density similar to that of Singapore today. Several stakeholders also echoed a point we made at the launch of the London 2062 anthology: for those who have difficulty grasping what London in 2050 could be, looking back that far in time demonstrates the scope of change over just a few decades.

The IIP’s interim report is expected in Spring 2014, with the final report tentatively scheduled for release in Summer 2014. Watch for further updates on the Future of London website.