Green light for the National Infrastructure Commission
Over the last few months, there has been much speculation over the future of major infrastructure schemes and the wider Northern Powerhouse and devolution agenda. When Theresa May became Prime Minister, it was only natural that some questioned whether it would spell the end for George Osborne’s flagship projects, especially as Mrs May’s rhetoric at the start of her premiership did not match up with that of the former chancellor. There was little mention of the National Infrastructure Commission, and projects like HS2, airport expansion, and of course Hinkley Point was paused at the last minute.
It took time for Mrs May to plot her policies, and the little snippets of information released by the government focused on spreading investment nationally, rather than targeting it in the north. Even the slogan at the party conference focused on ‘an economy that works for everyone’. Further to this, Lord Gatley, one of the governments key Northern Powerhouse supporters, also resigned from the government which some thought signalled problems for the National Infrastructure Commission and in particular the Northern Powerhouse.
However, in key announcements this week, the new chancellor, Philip Hammond, has announced that the National Infrastructure Commission is set to be put on a statutory footing, and the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, also confirmed that the government is fully committed to HS2. This suggests that those in Whitehall are finally recommitting to an investment agenda and could signal that future projects, such as HS3 and improved transport links across the North, could still go ahead.
With infrastructure projects and the wider Northern Powerhouse agenda seemingly back on track, developers across the region will be assured that, even in the wake of Brexit, the region will benefit from investment which could boost the Northern economy. However, the next challenge will be ensuring elected mayors work with the National Infrastructure Commission and other stakeholders to achieve the shared objectives of the region, and not just for their own cities. Without this, the Northern Powerhouse and key infrastructure projects may never take off despite the governments support.