The Local Infrastructure Commission is an expert group established as part of an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded project. It will explore how infrastructure needs can be understood and how they might be different at a local scale; how infrastructure planning and delivery happens at a local scale; and debate new approaches to decision making around infrastructure at all scales that might enable delivery of infrastructure that is more likely to meet local needs.
When we talk about infrastructure, we include key sectors of ‘economic infrastructure’ encompassing transport, energy, water and sewerage, flood risk, digital and waste (National Infrastructure Commission, 2017). However, within these sectors we define infrastructure broadly as “artefacts and processes of the interrelated systems that enable the movement of resources in order to provide the services that mediate (and ideally enhance) security, health, economic growth and quality of life at a range of scales”, which recognizes its influential and critical role in delivering societal needs (Dawson, 2013).
The commission was set up in response to the flurry of activity on infrastructure planning at the national (National Infrastructure Commission, 2017) and regional scale (for example Cox, 2017; ICE, 2017). These reports gave very detailed accounts of the need for better planning at these scales but overlooked the important role of communities, cities and city regions in infrastructure planning. We will address this scale of activity specifically in this commission. We will focus initially on communities, cities and city regions in the north, because of the call for greater investment and foresight in this region (ICE, 2017).
Why was it established?
Infrastructure is crucial to the delivery of several interconnected goals, such as inclusive growth (not just growth) and meeting our carbon emissions reduction targets. This is particularly important in cities and city regions, where infrastructure is most dense and interdependencies between infrastructure, the environment, economy and society are most profound. Recognising these interdependencies might mean that the outcomes we use to measure the success of infrastructure could be very different and that radically different approaches are used to finance, develop and operate infrastructure (Roelich et al., 2015).
Action at the city and city region scale does not happen in isolation. Any changes in the way local infrastructure is managed are heavily constrained by decisions taken at national and regional scales, including national infrastructure planning and regulation, national planning policy frameworks and devolved administrations. Cities and city regions should also be accountable to and guided by the needs of local citizens, who need to have a stronger voice in infrastructure decision making (Green Alliance, 2015). The Local Infrastructure Commission will consider how these issues, could and should affect infrastructure planning.
What do we want evidence on?
The commission will invite evidence on a range of issues relating to local infrastructure through this open call for evidence and through a series of evidence review workshops. We set out below the focus of our evidence review and invite you to answer some or all of the questions we pose in each section.
In our first phase of work we are looking in detail at the processes that guide the planning and delivery of infrastructure. We have identified three key areas that merit closer attention: how infrastructure contributes to the needs of citizens; how effective appraisal processes are at identifying processes that deliver on citizen needs; and how we understand and evaluate the outcomes of infrastructure at a local scale.