Last week Linda Taylor, Director at Copper, launched our ‘Attitudes to infrastructure in Great Britain 2015’ report at the Institution of Civil Engineer. Below is her introductory speech…
Introduction to panel members
Many thanks to Sir John Armitt and Keith Mitchell for joining us today.
Sir John is President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a commissioner on the National infrastructure Commission.
Keith Mitchell is Chairman of Peter Brett Associates, a development and infrastructure consultancy. PBA is our research partner and is involved in the promotion of a wide range of major infrastructure and development projects across the UK. Keith is a former Chairman and Board member of the National Infrastructure Planning Association which brings together all those involved in the planning and authorisation of major infrastructure projects.
Special thanks also to Lord Andrew Adonis who wrote the foreword to our report. Lord Adonis was appointed as chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission on 5 October this year – and was a member of the independent Armitt Commission, which recommended an independent National Infrastructure Commission in 2013. Andrew Adonis was formerly the Transport Secretary from 2009 to 2010, Minister of State for Transport from 2008 to 2009 and Minister for Schools from 2005 to 2008. He was Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit from 2001 to 2005.
So what is today all about?
This prestigious line up reflects that we have touched on something very important – public attitudes to infrastructure. We are here to talk about the survey findings, what they mean for our industry and what the public is asking for.
To set the scene, Copper is a communications and consultation consultancy working exclusively in the infrastructure sector. It’s our job to help our industry explain infrastructure to the public in the most effective way.
We all know the common denominator for any infrastructure project is the Great British public. And we spotted a gap in the collective understanding of public opinion towards infrastructure. So we decided to put our theory that the public supports infrastructure to the test and commissioned a survey to find out what British people really think and feel about it.
In our role, we see it first-hand. Only recently we worked with an entrepreneur to bring an innovative idea for an inland surfing lake to life. To help the project get planning permission, we needed the community to get behind it even though there was vocal opposition about the impact it would have on the area. Aligning the public alongside the surfing community was achieved and permission granted only because the developer fully understood that we needed to explain the benefits of what the lake would bring to the community.
And the research bears out our experiences. The results show that:
- British people want infrastructure investment now or in the near future
- They want to see world leading or solid improvements to existing infrastructure
- And they believe we can do it drawing on our engineering heritage.
At present British people feel that infrastructure happens ‘to them’ not ‘for them’. They don’t know about the National Infrastructure Plan. Only six per cent think the UK has a ‘very well-coordinated national or local plan’.
So what do we do about that? What does this mean for the infrastructure sector?
We know the public supports infrastructure, but we need to remove the barriers that stop the public backing investment.
When asked what would increase confidence in the infrastructure sector, British people identified four main areas:
- Community engagement
- Leadership from politicians and
- Technical experts
The public wants us to give them the opportunity to support investment. Our industry needs to tell its story.
We need to sell the vision for each and every project to the public. We need to explain how these projects are joined up.
The public trusts us, but wants to know what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we will do it.
British people want to discuss major infrastructure needs, both specific projects and strategic plans but they want to be involved in a two-way conversation.
Most importantly, the public wants to understand the benefit to them, not just how they will solve a national problem.
Our research proves that when the benefits of a project are made clear, people sit up, take note and ask for more of the same.
I believe if we engage the public in infrastructure in a more meaningful way, the benefit to UK PLC will be more open public support for infrastructure, fewer delays to projects and the benefits of infrastructure will be realised sooner.
That’s why the National Infrastructure Commission has been established and we hope this report can make a positive contribution to our industry.
The research shows that we need to show leadership in telling a positive story about what we have achieved. And that we can, do and will deliver world-class infrastructure which brings real benefits to us, the British people.
We know the public has the appetite to discuss what we need as a country and they want be a part of it.
We know that we should involve them early on, and show them there is joined up, strategic thinking at a national and local level – and that it’s for the long term.
If we do all these things, we can be confident that British people are confident about infrastructure – and that the best is being done for them and with them.
So now it’s up to us all to make this happen.
To download a copy of the report, please use the following link:
To download a copy of the press release, please use the following link: 20151203-Attitudes-to-Infrastructure-press-release-FINAL
You can follow the discussion on Twitter using #AttitudesToInfra