Stantec specialists share views on 2023 ‘Budget for Growth’
03/16/2023 UNITED KINGDOM TSX, NYSE:STN
03/16/2023 UNITED KINGDOM TSX, NYSE:STN
In response to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget on Wednesday, energy security, devolved spending, and the future of Levelling Up were top of the agenda. Colleagues at Stantec, a global leader in sustainable design and engineering, shared a collection of thoughts from across the UK side of the business.
Reacting to details on the economy and the future of levelling up, Stephen Cox, Director of Economics and Regeneration commented: “It was positive to hear from the Chancellor that the UK is expected to avoid a recession in 2023, and the easing of inflationary pressures should make the delivery of public sector grant funded projects more achievable.
“It is important to see more responsibilities being handed to local leaders as well as vital economic decisions being made at a local level. While we welcome the investment and focus on levelling up the country, there needs to be a long-term emphasis placed on developing traditionally challenged areas, through strategic economic restructuring. This means concerted and continued investment in these communities. We would welcome further detail around these policies.
“Given our experience supporting the development of research, education, and innovation projects across the UK, we know these innovation clusters could have an incredible impact on the communities they serve. Case-making and maximising the most promising schemes will be crucial for local authorities over the next period.”
Planning Director, Iain Painting, from Barton Willmore, now Stantec, also shared his views on the implications from Wednesday’s announcement around the new Investment Zones, he added: “The optimistic tone of the Chancellor’s “Budget for growth” was welcome, but beyond the top-line ambitions it missed a lot of the detail we would like to see, including on wider planning reform. The lack of clarity from past Governments on how to tackle the longstanding issues in the planning system has often caused market uncertainty, and this still needs addressing. Nonetheless, we are seeing more clearly how Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt’s administration will approach devolution and levelling-up – and the more focused and strategic method is a good sign.
“Investment zones have been scaled back from their origin under Liz Truss and will now aim to create 12 innovation clusters around key UK universities and research institutes – taking advantage of Britain’s leading role in the life sciences sector to draw investment to regional hubs. This is a positive hark back to enterprise zones – with an opportunity to go further and to refine and improve how zones like these will work.
“This targeting of certain areas will increase the chance of this policy making a real impact, especially when combined with the radical devolution of responsibilities to mayoral authorities – covering significant regeneration, infrastructure, and housing powers. Strategic planning must still sit at the heart of this, and we should resist any broad-brush planning deregulation that has been mooted for these zones.
“We have a chance for local regions to bring together housing, health, education and skills, infrastructure, and investment policy in a targeted way. This has the potential to provide certainty and a platform for investment and collaboration between communities, government, and enterprise.”
The Chancellor also put the nuclear sector front and centre of his energy commitments, proposing that 25% electricity should be generated from nuclear power by 2050. Neil Crellin, Framework Manager, Stantec has extensive experience in the nuclear sector and said: “The Chancellor is sending a strong signal to the UK energy sector and his Statement clearly highlights the opportunity that nuclear power offers our transition to a low-carbon future.
“The past 10 years have illustrated the weight of public commitment required to support financing for traditional nuclear power stations. Getting long term funding behind Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and clearly signalling the certainty of an integrated ‘Great British Nuclear’ approach may be just what it takes to pull private financing into the SMR mix. This is a big statement of support for the UK nuclear sector and takes direct aim at some of the key strategic elements required to achieve the scale of the ambition.”
Investment in the development of Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) was touted as another plank of the green economy, and could save up to 30 million tonnes of carbon every year by 2030. Chris Hudson, Associate Waste Consultant, responded saying: “We need to use this to support the development of the emerging CCUS market and provoke more confidence from developers and investors in moving forward. To maintain momentum, it would be ideal if we could see the funding used to support the roll out of CCUS hubs across the country.
David Bowers, Director of Transport Planning at Stantec, spoke on the second round of funding for City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS). He said: “Travel continues to evolve following the pandemic and city regions need to respond to the changing requirements from residents and workers, while also navigating climate change.
“The Government’s CRSTS have provided a way for England’s major urban areas to respond to these challenges over the next 4-5 years, and we have been heavily involved in developing schemes and assessing their impacts. The funding announced for this area will help communities plan delivery of transport schemes in the long term – which is important given the time it can take to move a scheme from design to delivery. The changes to the delivery of HS2 and the roads programme will also likely have an impact on the delivery of transport infrastructure over the coming years.
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