Construction News

Sun June 13 2021

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Hit squads to unblock stalled local infrastructure schemes

10 Jul 13 A partnership of public and private sector organisations has got together to help kick-start stalled infrastructure projects.

Under the scheme, professional from the private sector will give their time for free to help local authorities get schemes off the ground.

Five pilot projects have been selected for the local infrastructure demonstrator partnership, in Blackpool, Grantham, Northamptonshire, Norwich and Swindon.

The private sector led teams comprise representatives from the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Also on side are the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and other public and private sector partners.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is providing funding through its growth fund.  CECA made a bid to the CITB growth fund for support to create a team of 10 new ‘diagnosticians’ to meet with local project developers under the local infrastructure demonstrator partnership. CITB agreed to provide £88,000 to support the initiative between June 2013 and December 2014.

Multidisciplinary teams of experts (working on a pro-bono basis) will meet local partners to uncover and understand barriers to progress. Typical barriers are thought to include local co-ordination and capacity issues as much as access to finance.

The diagnosticians will be trained how to identify barriers to delivery and be briefed on the range of solutions available to them. They will also receive training on legal issues associated with the role, and mentoring from existing diagnosticians.   The thinking is that, once trained, these diagnosticians can then train up further people, helping to organically grow the initiative over time.

The pilot schemes are listed as:

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  • Blackpool Central
  • Grantham Bypass
  • Northampton Development (Daventry)
  • Norwich Research Park (Thickthorn junction)
  • Swindon (White Hart).

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said:  “We know that building the new infrastructure that communities need is one of the most effective ways to create growth in the economy. Yet too often this potential is hindered by barriers that prevent projects starting on site. As representatives of industry, it is essential that we work with our local clients, providing the support that they need to overcome these problems. By doing so, we can play our part in rebuilding the health of the UK economy, while securing a positive future for our own industry.”

RTPI president Dr Peter Geraghty said: “The RTPI is delighted to have brought planners’ expertise to help unblock the stalled sites. We hope that the work not only benefits the communities in the five demonstrator areas, but serves as an example to other parts of the country with similarly delayed developments. It is not always easy but with willingness, determination and professional expertise it is possible to overcome seemingly intractable obstacles to deliver the infrastructure local areas need to grow sustainably.”

Norfolk County Council planner Richard Doleman said: “Thickthorn junction being chosen as a local infrastructure demonstrator project has given us a great opportunity to progress the scheme. The partnership has provided an outside challenge to our approach and helped us explore a range of options for funding and delivery of the improvement.”

Northamptonshire County Council head of external funding & partnerships Ian Achurch said:  “We welcome engagement through the partnership.  Unlocking major infrastructure is crucial to releasing economic growth. This needs to involve the public sector and development industry working more closely together and sharing risk in different ways.”

Business minister Michael Fallon said: “Making improvements to local infrastructure and unblocking new developments are vital for growth, and having free industry advice and support on hand can help get projects off the ground.

“By bringing together the relevant experts face-to-face with the parties involved, solutions can often be found to problems and costly delays avoided.  I would like to thank the private sector experts who are working on the projects on a pro bono basis.”

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