Infrastructure projects are critical to switch to sustainable economy

by Search Gate staff. Published Thu 16 Apr 2016 11:24
Incoming Government needs to take the UK’s transition to a sustainable economy up a gear

Two thirds of Environment and Sustainability professionals surveyed this week by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) say that ultimately national needs must take priority where there is conflict between national and local built environment issues.

From 646 people polled, 65% say that while a balance is obviously needed, nationally significant infrastructure projects must take priority. IEMA Members also indicated that the Government’s Green Investment Bank should have a greater role in taking forward such nationally significant infrastructure.

92% said that they want to see the role of the Green Investment Bank increased so that it has powers to appropriately borrow and invest in projects that both protect and improve the UK’s natural capital.

Furthermore, where there are prominent regional concerns, such as the recent peak in air pollution levels in the South East of England, IEMA Members say that these should not be left to Local Authorities alone; in fact 89% of respondents say that resolving the UK’s poor air quality is a critical priority for the next Government.

Making significant progress on improvements to air quality will benefit the environment as well as human health and well-being, as poor air quality is currently linked to 29,000 premature deaths each year.

Three quarters of IEMA’s respondents say that the current planning system is not equipped to aid the UK’s much-needed transition to a sustainable economy. 75% said that the Planning System – including its legislation, policies and guidance – is not currently capable of playing the vital role necessary in order to achieve sustainable economy goals.

Lack of action on this issue could threaten the UK’s ability to implement infrastructure projects which harmonise with the need to protect the natural environment.

IEMA’s Policy Lead on planning and environmental impact Josh Fothergill said “This poll very markedly shows that there is an opportunity for the incoming Government to take the bold decision needed to kick the UK’s transition to a sustainable economy up a gear.

“In particular, professionals using the planning system indicate it must play an enhanced role in this transition.”

Other significant statistics from IEMA’s poll include:

• In relation to managing coastal erosion and the associated risks to people and property, IEMA Members believe that if the next Government continues to pursue a “managed retreat” policy then it must alter its approach to compensating those whose property is at risk. 64% say that the Government should expand community adaptation funds, such as the 2009 Pathfinder scheme, to assist communities most at risk

• In regards to other built environment developments, 84% believe that identifying brownfield sites should be a priority for new housing developments needed to address the UK’s housing crisis. 58% said urban infill is a key option and 42% said publically owned land could also be used.

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