Ahead of this year’s London Infrastructure Summit, the Mayor’s Young Professionals Panel reflects on the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 offering their view of London’s infrastructure needs.
In 2014, the GLA released the London Infrastructure Plan 2050, the first comprehensive assessment of the capital’s infrastructure needs and long-term plan to deliver the infrastructure needed to support future growth. At the time of publication, the London Infrastructure Plan, predating both the foundation of the National Infrastructure Commission (and the subsequent National Infrastructure Assessment) and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.
The LIP was a forerunner for the strategic and long-term planning of London’s infrastructure. However, the nature of our infrastructure needs and priorities have developed in the last five years while the context for delivering the needed investment has become increasingly uncertain. For example, electric vehicle charge points and cycle networks have both increased exponentially as Londoners seek to reduce their carbon emissions.
While much of the LIP focused on the delivery of the big infrastructure projects to deliver the additional capacity that London’s growing population demands, the Plan was inherently based on projections of future economic (jobs) and population growth, and focused on delivering the physical infrastructure that would facilitate this type of growth.
London has several major infrastructure projects ongoing and in the pipeline but it’s not just the hard infrastructure – the trains, sewers and electricity lines – that make up the infrastructure network. It is also about integrating the networks and connecting the hard infrastructure with our social infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and culture, and green spaces that creates a liveable city. A new and holistic approach to infrastructure planning is required; one that prioritises a sustainable, inclusive and liveable city.
This holistic approach will consider all three pillars of sustainability – the Social, Environmental and Economic pillars. Infrastructure isn’t just about delivering a means to an end, it’s also an end in and of itself and this should be reflected in our thinking about the design of infrastructure; for example, it’s not just about delivering green or digital infrastructure, but about our infrastructure being green and digital.
Much of the thought-leadership around these topics is already in the works and includes the publication of the Culture Map and London’s approach to becoming the first National Park City. These initiatives – which should be incorporated within the next iteration of the London Infrastructure Plan – also highlight the role that data can play to assess gaps in infrastructure and prioritise spending. Data can also ensure that investment in infrastructure takes a more participatory approach, with local authorities and citizens being able to play an active role in decision-making and shaping our infrastructure.
To ensure that the next London Infrastructure Plan delivers the infrastructure of the future, it will need to:
Consider delivery methods that encourage the deployment of smart technologies for a cleaner, greener and more responsible sector;
Identify the opportunities for data to improve infrastructure efficiency, flexibility, interconnection and the user experience together with developing our understanding of the impact this could have on growth projections; and
Improve collaboration and communication between local authorities and utility providers to facilitate the delivery and operation of investments to minimise disruptions.
The recent power outages and extreme weather events reinforce the importance of building resilient infrastructure, both at a singular and networked level. Several London boroughs have declared climate emergencies and while infrastructure can support the shift towards de-carbonisation, this will require both investment and leadership to deliver.
Green infrastructures must be an essential requirement of any future development for solving urban and climatic challenges, improve air and water quality, to provide an ecological “structure” to enhance social and economic activities and to increase the resilience of our city.
Alongside these considerations being reflected within the next London Infrastructure Plan, we would welcome them also being reflected within the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy.
The Mayor’s Young Professionals Panel was launched in 2019 to provide a joint vision for London. Working collectively to undertake a programme of work to research, uncover and articulate a future vision for London’s infrastructure that will support the development of the next London Infrastructure Plan. For more information about the YPP, please visit the Young Professional Panels page.
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