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Coordination within London can give infrastructure a better name
29 July 2021
At some point or another we’ve all had the thought “Didn’t they just dig up the road? Can’t they coordinate their work?”. Well, that’s the million-dollar question right there, why can’t they coordinate their works? The principle is there, but the reality is that there is no one party with the responsibility to coordinate across all the actual and planned infrastructure activity within an area. This is where the Mayor’s Infrastructure Coordination Service (ICS) comes in.
Infrastructure Coordinators are gradually being embedded into London councils to streamline infrastructure connections for development. During a roundtable event in mid-June, which was hosted by Mott MacDonald and London First, case studies were presented by the coordinators within the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Redbridge and Lambeth, which highlighted the invaluable nature of their work. We heard how they facilitated conversations between developers and utility companies, bringing the utility companies up to date with developer and borough plans, highlighting the potential for ‘dig once’. These conversations would not have otherwise been possible without the infrastructure coordinators generally acting as the point of contact between parties who would not otherwise know where to turn.
The outcomes from the ICS as a whole shared included coordination of planned utilities upgrades which thereby reduced disruption and provided better outcomes for affected communities. Examples were also provided of how Infrastructure Coordinators are able to provide pre-development input on utilities to unlock sites for development though access to bespoke digital tools.
Phil Graham, Executive Director, Good Growth at the GLA, stressed that the service is not designed to compete with engineering consultancies, rather to provide a point of contact to help developers for whom earlier insight into wider neighbourhood plans and other information would be beneficial. Consultants complement the work of Infrastructure Coordinators by bringing best practice to early planning stages, value downstream and through innovation.
One such example would be an area which Mott MacDonald are a leading in — digital innovation such as in the use of digital twins, where a digital representation of a physical asset provides a ‘single source of truth’ for effective data management and multi-sector planning.
Coupling the services that the Mayor’s Infrastructure Coordination Development Service can offer with digital innovation intrinsically supports the UK Government’s “Build Back Better” proposals and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; SDG9 ‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’ and SDG11 ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’. The need to build resilient infrastructure has been highlighted through the global pandemic. During the mass shift to working from home, telecommunication and broadband providers have experienced a surge in demand requiring a rollout of new networks. This service could also be pivotal in helping to drive forward the decarbonisation of the economy to achieve net zero, through facilitation and visibility of the transition plans for the different stakeholders that will be responding to the challenge.
Ultimately, a successful model of Infrastructure Coordination within London has the potential to give infrastructure a better reputation and could well be rolled out to other big cities in the UK.
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