top of page
  • The Panel

PRESS RELEASE: Public Interest Advisory Panel Calls for New Technologies in Infrastructure Planning to Build Trust 

Updated: Apr 10

Press Release

Title:  Public Interest Advisory Panel Calls for New Technologies in Infrastructure Planning to Build Trust 

London, UK – A critical transformation is underway in the world of infrastructure planning to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time: achieving net zero, boosting resilience and assisting nature recovery. A new report, released by the Linear Infrastructure Planning Panel (LIPP) at an event last week, reveals an urgent need for accelerating the pace at which infrastructure projects are planned, scoped, consented and delivered. 

The UK's ambitious targets for net zero by 2050 demand a rapid revisitation of how infrastructure projects, especially those around essential services like electricity transmission and distribution, water and wastewater, are conceptualised and executed. To add even more urgency, in an announcement last week the ESO released its ‘Beyond 2030’ report which calls for an additional £58 billion investment into electricity networks by 2035. That’s 1,000 miles of power cables and pylons, that will need public approval. 

"New planning technologies have the potential to help infrastructure to be delivered faster, greener, in the right places and with greater community acceptance – and lower cost," says Sharon Darcy, Panel Chair of LIPP. "For this potential to be realised, a significant transformation in our approach to planning must occur. Our white paper, the result of a year-long collaborative process, outlines actionable steps towards achieving this transformative change."


The report launch event brought together planning experts, government and regulatory stakeholders, developers, investors and key NGOs to explore how the infrastructure projects that are crucial for decarbonisation and ensuring a healthy environment can face lengthy delays and escalating costs due to planning processes which engage public stakeholders too late in the day, fostering an atmosphere of mistrust. Ambitious decarbonisation targets force more aggressive project timelines than in previous decades but the public are not prepared for the number of projects coming their way. Tensions between developers and local stakeholders are growing, putting strain on limited industry and stakeholder resources.

However, with the advent of Artificial Intelligence and other innovative technologies, there's an opportunity to streamline these processes, engage the public earlier and improve efficiency and outcomes.

Developing new energy transmission and distribution lines can take up to 14 years, with a significant portion of this time dedicated to planning and consenting. National Grid's projections indicate a need to develop five times more projects in the next seven years than it managed in the past 30.

With automated route design technologies and increased visibility and engagement of the public earlier in the process, as advocated in the LIPP report and by the discussion panel at the launch event, there's a clear path forward to overcoming these obstacles.

The LIPP report addresses several key recommendations, including the need for government, regulators and project developers to ensure the trustworthiness and security of new planning technologies. Regulation must incentivise the use of new tech and the creation of markets in this area, supporting developer procurement practices that align with these goals.

"Adopting new technologies for infrastructure planning isn't just about improving efficiency; it's about reimagining how we engage with communities, maintain decision-making legitimacy, and overcome collective problems," says Darcy. "The recommendations in the white paper serve as a road map for all stakeholders involved in national infrastructure projects."

Dr Wei Yang, CEO, Digital Task Force for Planning, who was at the report launch event commented: "Planning for new infrastructure and housing worked for the UK in the post-war years because it was considered a crucial positive force — key to addressing severe national challenges. We can make planning work for the UK again - it needs genuine collaboration and a long-term approach, utilising digitally enabled methods that are now at our disposal.”  

Dr Michala Elchner Techau, Head of Resilience and Sustainability at Oxford Global Projects said: "Early collaboration between all involved stakeholders helps bring projects in on time and on budget – look at the Oxford Global Projects project database for evidence. For this to work, it is imperative that policy bodies elevate their capabilities to actively engage in the project selection and planning processes"

Rachel McEwan, Head of Sustainability, SSE, added: "New developments involve trade offs and sometimes those trade offs are going to inevitably disadvantage but it's only by admitting they are hard and collaborating that these developments can go ahead"

Jim Kitchen, National Infrastructure Manager at the Environment Agency asked: "We have areas of the Country – like the east of England, where numerous infrastructure developers are supplying separate environmental information for their projects. Why can’t we just have a centralised single place where everyone can share and re-use their approved data?"

Sue Chadwick, Strategic and Digital Planning Advisor, Pinsent Masons added: “...I was immensely proud to be part of this. We covered some truly difficult questions but managed to end on a note of hope, collaboration and enthusiasm….”  In his foreword to the white paper, Electricity Networks Commissioner Nick Winser, says:


"To deliver Net Zero, resilience and nature recovery requires a shift from incremental to transformative change in infrastructure planning. The work of the Linear Infrastructure Planning Panel is a great example of bringing innovation and people together to explore how we might do this.

The Panel’s report draws attention to the opportunity to use new tools and approaches in creative ways to deliver good outcomes that are based on genuine collaborative thinking across diverse stakeholders.

New tools and processes must be aligned with user needs, societal expectations and national strategic goals. Appropriate transparency, accountability, and assurance arrangements need to be put in place. More dynamic engagement, collaboration and optioneering in infrastructure planning – at the strategic and project levels – would unquestionably be beneficial."


The white paper and the launch event are the culmination of a year-long collaborative effort by the multi-stakeholder Linear Infrastructure Planning Panel, setting a solid foundation for speeding up of the planning and delivery of national infrastructure projects.


Notes:

  1. The Linear Infrastructure Planning Panel was established in March 2023 with the aim of developing good practice in the use of new tools and approaches in major infrastructure planning. The Panel brings together key social and environmental NGO stakeholder groups with observers from government bodies.  The Panel’s terms of reference and membership can be found here https://www.lippanel.org


  1. By collecting, synthesising, and analysing vast amounts of data, new techniques can radically speed up planning processes and facilitate more informed forecasting and optioneering at the strategic and project levels. Digital platforms can also enable collaboration and visualisations, supporting engagement processes and more dynamic and responsive decision-making. This is crucial for the public acceptability of the infrastructure being built. 


  1. The ESO’s Beyond 2030 report was launched on 19th March 2024.


  1. On 7th March 2024 the Department for Levelling Up Homes and Communities announced the appointment of (Lord) Charles Banner KC to lead a Government review into speeding up the planning and delivery of national infrastructure projects (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-banner-kc-to-lead-review-on-national-infrastructure)


  1. The Electricity Networks Commissioner’s report ‘Accelerating electricity transmission network deployment’ was published in August 2023 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/accelerating-electricity-transmission-network-deployment-electricity-network-commissioners-recommendations

Contact Information:

This press release is an invitation to reimagine infrastructure planning in the age of rapid technological advancement and unprecedented environmental challenges. With collaborative effort, the right level of public engagement and the strategic implementation of new technologies, achieving net zero and ensuring a sustainable future is within our reach.

For more information contact: Sharon Darcy LIPP Panel Chair





272 views

Comentarios


bottom of page