Press release

Radical reform needed to Welsh planning system

David Jones gives speech to launch Wales Office infrastructure report

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Infrastructure construction

The Secretary of State for Wales will today (30 June 2014) urge the Welsh Government to undertake radical reforms to the planning system to streamline the development of new infrastructure.

David Jones MP will call on the Welsh Government to use its forthcoming Planning Bill to implement effective reforms to stop regulatory barriers to providing the infrastructure required to grow the Welsh economy.

In a speech to the Policy Forum for Wales in Cardiff to launch a report from the Wales Office Infrastructure Working Group, Mr Jones will highlight the growing differences between the planning systems in Wales and England.

Mr Jones will stress how England’s radical planning reforms, which have not been adopted in Wales, are underpinning the UK government’s long-term economic plan.

Mr Jones will say:

Poor infrastructure planning has a knock-on-effect. For businesses to grow, it is essential that they are able to invest with the confidence that a modern infrastructure network will be in place to meet their needs.

Wales is playing catch-up after years of underinvestment by the previous administration: no new rail infrastructure, roads in desperate need of upgrade and substandard broadband. The government is currently investing at unprecedented levels in all these areas as part of our long-term economic plan.

This report deserves attention, because it sets out an appraisal of future Welsh infrastructure requirements, and the steps needed to provide it.

In his speech Mr Jones will also:

  • call on the Welsh Government to make firm progress on the M4 using the borrowing powers that the UK government has given to it to finance the project

  • urge the Welsh Government to call an early referendum under the powers it will shortly acquire under the Wales Bill to secure the income stream necessary to be able to invest sufficiently in Wales

Mr Jones will also highlight:

  • The UK government’s funding of the roll-out of superfast broadband, which has increased to almost £70 million to allow the Superfast Cymru programme to go further. There is also an additional £10 million for the most hard to reach areas.

  • The UK government’s £9 billion investment during the next five years to transform railway networks across England and Wales, speeding up journeys by electrifying key rail routes. This includes taking forward the electrification of the mainline through to Swansea, which means the Welsh Government confirming the agreement reached in 2012 to fund the electrification of the Valley lines. This needs to be brought to a conclusion urgently.

  • Wales’s potential in the energy sector and that the UK’s National Infrastructure Plan lists more than 15 Welsh energy projects already in the pipeline, from large-scale offshore wind farms to micro generation and with potential for more.

The Wales Office Infrastructure Working Group was set up by the Secretary of State for Wales in June 2013 with a challenge to industry experts, leading Welsh businesses and representatives from the UK and Welsh governments to identify Wales’s future infrastructure priorities, the barriers to progressing them and a plan to address this. The group was chaired by Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb MP.

Key findings from the Wales Office Infrastructure Working Group Report include:

  • Wales’s two governments must work together in planning and delivering Wales’s infrastructure needs

  • infrastructure providers and investors must work together to seek out opportunities to plan and deliver infrastructure collaboratively

  • investors should access all available sources of finance and develop innovative means to fund infrastructure. The UK Government’s £40 billion UK guarantees scheme should be fully utilised.

  • businesses in Wales must seize the supply chain opportunities available.

Quotes from members of Wales Office Infrastructure Working Group.

Leighton Jenkins, CBI Wales Head of Policy, said:

The report underlines the key role infrastructure plays in business growth and, as our economy grows stronger, it outlines an important case for renewing and maximising the role infrastructure could play in building a more prosperous Wales.

Keith Jones, Institution of Civil Engineers, Director Wales Cymru said:

I am delighted to be part of the Wales Office’s Infrastructure Working Group. There is a proven link between the condition of Wales’s infrastructure and the economy of Wales. We must continue to invest in and maintain the infrastructure to ensure the continued growth of Wales.

David Morgan, Policy Manager for Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Wales, said:

RICS Wales is delighted to have been part of the Infrastructure Working Group. Improved infrastructure, particularly in transport, is vital to sustainable, long-term growth in the Welsh Economy.

As well as the skills training the construction phases bring for so many and the economic stimulus of the construction multiplier (where one job in construction will generate other jobs in the economy) in the immediate future, improving transport connectivity is integral to balanced economic growth throughout Wales and the UK.

Projects such as the electrification of the main line between London and Swansea and improvements to the M4 in Wales therefore need to be progressed as swiftly as possible to help achieve these aims.

Giles Phelps, managing director, Spectrum Internet, said:

The high level of experience and knowledge of the members of the Infrastructure Working Group provides for some great collaborative and innovative thinking which is important for continuing to build the right infrastructure in making Wales an attractive place to work and to invest. I am very pleased to be part of this working group as it considers our digital infrastructure alongside more traditional services such as road and rail in order to enable Welsh companies to gain advantage so that they can grow their businesses here.

Colin Orr Burns, General Manager at Dragon LNG said:

In a market-driven economy it is clear that, while businesses and individuals are a primary driving force for economic growth, optimum results can only be obtained within a structure that encourages, sustains and facilitates investment while, at the same time, providing those facilities that the market cannot or will not deliver on its own.

It is therefore a primary role of government to provide that structure or to ensure, by guiding and working with the market, that the necessary structures are put in place. In particular, the fundamental building block of a modern, thriving and dynamic society is the infrastructure on which everything else depends on the road and rail networks, utilities, and telecommunications.

It is therefore encouraging that, by setting-up the Infrastructure Group, the Government recognised the importance not only of its own role but also that Wales will be relegated to a minor player without an over-arching and ambitious vision, effective long-term planning and a close working relationship with business. I believe that the Infrastructure Group is clear evidence that the government is serious about delivering the infrastructure that Wales must have to be a dynamic and sustainable economy.

The government cannot deliver the infrastructure that is needed on its own. The market equally cannot deliver it. Only by working together through such bodies as the Infrastructure Group can it be delivered. From what I have seen of the work of this group I believe that, if its work is carried through, Wales can have an infrastructure that is fit-for-purpose, will encourage economic growth, and will deliver a good quality of life for its citizens.

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail in Wales said:

It is a pleasure to host the Secretary of State for Wales at the Wales ROC to mark the launch of the Wales Office Infrastructure Report. The ROC is a state-of-the-art facility and it represents the future of the railway in Wales.

Network Rail supports continuing investment in transport. Over the next five years we will be responding to the unprecedented growth in passenger demand by delivering the biggest investment in the Welsh rail network since Victorian times. This investment will help boost the economy of Wales as well as delivering an improved experience for passengers, with enhanced stations as well as faster, more frequent and more reliable journeys.

Notes to editors:

Set up in June 2013 by the Secretary of State for Wales, the Wales Office Infrastructure Working Group explored key priorities for infrastructure development with a view to boosting the Welsh economy. The group, chaired by Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb MP, brought together investors, operators, industry experts and providers of Welsh infrastructure, together with representatives of both Governments in Wales. It discussed challenges in delivering infrastructure projects already underway and explored further infrastructure needs.

Members included:

  • BT Wales
  • CBI
  • Dragon LNG
  • Welsh Government
  • HMT
  • Institution of Civil Engineers
  • Wales
  • Milford Haven Port Authority
  • Network Rail
  • Ofgem
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Wales
  • Spectrum Internet
  • Dwr Cymru

Building a more prosperous Wales: Infrastructure for a modern economy

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Adeiladu Cymru fwy llewyrchus: Seilwaith ar gyfer economi fodern

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Published 30 June 2014