Infrastructure Delivery Plans: What if they actually delivered?

Last week I tuned in to the RTPI’s #Plantalk session with Sara Dilmamode, Director of Citiesmode, on infrastructure delivery plans. In the title of her presentation Sara raised a fundamental question that I think on reflection will resonate with many, that is “Infrastructure delivery plans: What if they actually delivered?”.

Sara and I have worked together recently on the development of the PAS advice note “Start with the spend in mind”. This is aimed at helping local authority senior leadership teams to understand the role(s) of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 Planning Obligations (S106). At the heart of this advice note is the push for the recognition that local authorities have a fundamental role in leading from the front the coordination and delivery of infrastructure to support their areas. This will of course become ever more important as we reflect and plan for the impacts of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in terms of how we continue to shape the places within which we live and work and what demands this places on existing, or the need for new, infrastructure.

Effective infrastructure planning, prioritisation and importantly the governance of spend are critical to supporting our communities and the delivery of sustainable development and growth. Like many things in the planning system infrastructure planning is continually evolving and it is imperative that this is reflected in an authority’s governance process. Developing Infrastructure delivery Plans (IDPs) as static evidence documents to support a local plan at a fixed point in time with no commitment to a periodic, and of course proportionate, update can render such documents in the longer term purposeless. IDPs often take the form of long wish lists that can become out of date very quickly and which fail to provide any form of prioritisation for bringing forward the infrastructure that is required to support the delivery of
the local plan.

Kept alive and up to date IDPs do have the ability to help an authority to prioritise and deliver the infrastructure that is required to support its area. But this needs to be a coordinated approach by an authority with strong leadership, clear processes, effective governance and a continual dialogue with infrastructure providers and users. There is immense value in getting people around a table and this is the number one lesson that I learned from my former boss, Graham King, when working on the redevelopment of Paddington Basin and the delivery of critical infrastructure back in the naughties.

There is other good practice out there, including Greater Norwich and Chichester District Council who are mentioned in the #Plantalk session and the PAS advice note. Their commitment to clear governance processes is enabling the delivery of infrastructure through the effective spend of developer contributions and other funding sources.

The requirement to produce an Infrastructure Funding Statement (IFS) by the end of this year should not be approached with trepidation. Whilst there will inevitably be for some authorities hard work to be undertaken to bring together the required information, an IFS offers the opportunity to showcase effective governance of developer contributions, infrastructure delivery and consensus for future priorities.

I would urge you and your leadership teams to watch the RTPI’s #Plantalk session with Sara and read our advice note “Start with the spend in mind”and raise the profile of this incredibly important area of work within your authority.

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