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The 2050 Infrastructure Plan: ‘An ambitious plan with an ambitious price tag’

As the GLA launches its trillion pound London Infrastructure Plan,  John Dickie, Director of Strategy at London First, who was a member of the advisory group, comments on some of the key areas.

The cost and who will pay for it:

Mr Dickie said the 2050 Infrastructure Strategy was a “big and ambitious plan that comes with a big and ambitious price tag”.

“The Mayor estimates we have to more than double London’s infrastructure spending – from an annual average of £16 billion in 2011-15 to £38 billion in 2016-50 – if London is to tackle the backlog of historic under-investment and keep up in the global race.

“We must prioritise ruthlessly and plan and deliver these investments efficiently; but we can’t shrink from the fact that we will all have to pay more.

“The costs can be shared across users, taxpayers and others who benefit directly – but they cannot be wished away.

“And make no mistake: with London growing by 100,000 people a year, if we don’t deliver this extra investment then the Capital will be a bigger but not better place in the future.”

Where will the new housing go?

Mr Dickie said that despite the Mayor having identifying housing as the “gravest crisis” London currently faces, the Plan treads very carefully in terms of where new homes would go.

“The Mayor says that we need to build 49,000 homes per annum; yet over the past decade we have built just 20,000 each year” he said. “There is no silver bullet to fix this substantial gap.

“The Plan calls for redeveloping brownfield sites within London, and building denser housing in town centres and outer London.

“While these are clearly part of the solution we also need a more radical approach — getting redundant public land into the market, investing more public money to provide social housing and looking at land in outer London which is designated as greenbelt but which most Londoners would think was brownfield.

“We need to embrace a broad package of measures if London isn’t going to suffer the social and economic consequences of an increasingly serious housing shortage.”

Plans for delivering the new infrastructure

Mr Dickie said the Plan injected a note of welcome pragmatism on the potential role of the private sector in London infrastructure delivery.

“The Plan says that we need to explore more private and public sector collaboration which I hope means that GLA is finally ready to move beyond the legacy of the Tube PPP,” he said.

“This is a welcome attempt to break from the past and put common sense first when it comes to delivering the big projects London needs.”

He added that the Plan called for the Mayor to have a more formal role in the infrastructure planning processes regulators oversee for the utility companies, and that this is a vital reform.

“The Mayor acting as a fulcrum between utility companies and their regulators to ensure plans meet the needs of Londoners is a critical step forward; we need investment strategies that meet the scale and pace of London’s population and economic growth, and enable new infrastructure to be provided in line with demand,” he said.

Read more about on work on London’s infrastructure

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