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Fri July 19 2024

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Starmer promises everything to plan – except Arundel bypass

13 Jun The Labour Party has made a manifesto commitment to kick the A27 Arundel bypass project further into the long grass and spend the money filling potholes instead.

Keir & Ange, looking highly visible
Keir & Ange, looking highly visible

The £320m A27 bypass has already been deferred by the current Conservative government, moved from the current Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2) period (April 2020 to March 2025) into the next five-year plan. But Labour has committed to further deferral, dismissing it as not worth the money.

Page 33 of Labour’s 2024 manifesto states: “We will fix an additional one million potholes across England in each year of the next parliament, funded by deferring the A27 bypass, which is poor value for money.”

The Linkconnex consortium of Bam Nuttall, Aecom and Mace has been waiting a long time to start this project. It was handed the job as long ago as 2018.

While further changes to national infrastructure plans might disappoint construction industry lobbyists who have been pressing for infrastructure to be “de-politicised”, Labour is at least promising a new 10-year infrastructure plan.

“The strategy will guide investment plans and give the private sector certainty about the project pipeline,” it says.

It also promises that, the Arundel bypass notwithstanding, other road and rail building projects will never overrun again: “Labour will develop a long-term strategy for transport, ensuring transport infrastructure can be delivered efficiently and on time,” its manifesto states.

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A stand-out commitment is the creation of a new National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority, “bringing together existing bodies, to set strategic infrastructure priorities and oversee the design, scope, and delivery of projects”.

It is not clear what bodies might be included in this new organisation, but candidates would include National Highways, Great British Railways and the nuclear authorities perhaps. Whether NISTA, as it will surely become, will replace existing bodies with one super bureaucracy, or simply be another tier of government is not spelled out in the manifesto.

But it all sounds like everything is going to be absolutely super, if the polls are correct and Labour storms to victory on 4th July.

“The current planning regime acts as a major brake on economic growth. Labour will make the changes we need to forge ahead with new roads, railways, reservoirs, and other nationally significant infrastructure,” Labour says. “We will set out new national policy statements, make major projects faster and cheaper by slashing red tape, and build support for developments by ensuring communities directly benefit. We will also update national planning policy to ensure the planning system meets the needs of a modern economy, making it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure, and gigafactories.”

Other Labour manifesto highlights, as picked out by the National Federation of Builders, include:

  • Update the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
  • Restore mandatory housing targets
  • Brownfield first but accept it is not enough to meet our needs
  • Strategic greenbelt land designation and implement a greybelt land definition
  • Further devolution to local authorities and regions
  • Reform procurement rules to better favour SMEs
  • Set up Great British Energy as a publicly owned, clean power company
  • Maintain and renew road network, embedding public and active travel
  • Reform compulsory purchase compensation rules and improve land assembly
  • National Wealth Fund, with private sector joint venture strategies
  • Support SMEs with action on late payment and easier access to capital
  • Transform further education colleges into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges

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