Mayor consults on Infrastructure Plan

The Mayor of London has launched a consultation on a 2050 London Infrastructure Plan, saying London is set to exceed its record level of population within months and risks losing its position among the world’s elite cities unless a major programme of infrastructure investment is put in place.

The London Infrastructure Plan 2050 is the Mayor’s first attempt to set out the full range of infrastructure requirements for the capital over the next half century, during which time the population of London is forecast to increase by thirty seven per cent to more than 11 million people. The Mayor describes the plan as “a wakeup call to the stark level of investment and thought that needs to be put into ensuring the capital does not falter”.

The plan aims to build on the Mayor’s campaign for greater fiscal devolution to cities, which has brought together London’s government and the Core Cities Group – representing Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – to jointly make the case for devolving locally-raised taxes to cities, allowing for investment in local infrastructure. The Mayor believes that model for investment set out in the plan could also be suitable for all of these cities, and others, providing a blueprint for how they might invest in locally-decided priority infrastructure needs.

Although London currently leads the world in the finance, commercial, cultural, scientific and media sectors the capital is in danger of being overtaken by competitors who are already strengthening their infrastructure. The Mayor argues that a clear economic rationale underpins the need for a long term infrastructure plan, as rising prosperity for all depends on increased productivity, which itself relies on good infrastructure. However, infrastructure can only be delivered, improved and maintained through planned, sustained and targeted investment.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “This plan is a real wake up call to the stark needs that face London over the next half century. Infrastructure underpins everything we do and we all use it every day. Without a long term plan for investment and the political will to implement it this city will falter. Londoners need to know they will get the homes, water, energy, schools, transport, digital connectivity and better quality of life that they expect.”

The Mayor lists a series of “serious challenges” to its infrastructure including demand for public transport – forecast to increase by 50 per cent with increased demand for Underground and rail services likely to increase by 60 and 80 per cent respectively – demand on energy supplies which is set to increase by 20 per cent during a period where demand on electricity supplies is forecast to more than double, and demand for water which could exceed supply by 10 per cent in London by 2025, rising to 21 per cent by 2040.

In addition, he lists school places, housing, and of course aviation, where Heathrow is already operating at 98.5 per cent of its capacity.

The Mayor will establish a London Infrastructure Delivery Board composed of senior representatives from all of the main infrastructure providers in London to utilise their expertise.

The draft plan sets out detailed descriptions of how the challenges facing London might be met, including Crossrail 2, a series of new river crossings and an inner orbital road tunnel, as well as greater action to raise the UK and London’s broadband connectivity to “world class levels”. He recommends working with the telecoms industry on a city wide connectivity mapping exercise that would be used to develop property connectivity ratings. A connectivity advisory group will be established and they will consider measures including opening up access points such as bus stops and street lights for digital providers and bringing planning applications for communications infrastructure within the Mayor’s responsibility.

With energy demands at risk of outstripping supply and key developments such as those at Nine Elms at risk of delay as a result, the Mayor argues a strong long term plan to use energy more efficiently and bring in new capacity where we can is vital. The Mayor says a short term investment of £210m on electricity substations is required but in the long term changes to the regulatory regime must be considered as well as plans to supply a quarter of London’s energy from local sources and exploit the capital’s waste heat resource.

A more integrated approach to water management would help deal with demand for water which is predicted to exceed supply from as early as 2016. The plan outlines how innovative tariffs and better leakage detection could help plug the gap. He also encourages Thames Water to develop 25 year plans for wastewater, drainage and flood risk management.

The London Infrastructure Plan 2050 also discusses how growth might be accommodated in the capital. The plan suggests improving rail links to other urban areas in the southeast but the Mayor rules out building on the green belt as the large amounts of brownfield land within the capital should allow London to accommodate its growth, at least until 2025, within existing boundaries.

The full costs of delivering and maintaining the infrastructure London requires would result in a sharp rise in costs and a public sector funding gap. Arup estimate that the total investment in London’s infrastructure between 2016 and 2050 could amount to £1.3 trillion, although the purpose of consulting on this plan is to help agree priorities and how to reduce costs. Capital costs would rise significantly compared to existing funding levels and the Infrastructure Plan examines a number of ways of plugging the gap.

A consultation on the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 will run for three months and the Mayor is expected to publish a final report in early 2015.

Tony Travers, director of the London School of Economics, said: “The London Infrastructure Plan is a necessary step towards understanding the needs of the ‘10 million city’ which London will soon become. The capital’s railways, housing and schools will all require substantial investment just to accommodate the additional one and a half million Londoners who government statisticians forecast will live in the capital within 15 years. In reality, with higher densities will come a disproportionately greater need for investment. The Plan makes it possible to draw up proposals for developing schemes and raising resources.”

Cllr Claire Kober, London Councils Lead Member for Infrastructure and Regeneration, said: “London Councils welcomes the start of a debate about London’s long term infrastructure needs. With the challenge of continued population growth, infrastructure investment needs to ensure that London remains both a competitive world city and a liveable one for all its different communities. To meet this challenge, Whitehall must devolve power to London government and allow greater financial independence.’

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