Earlier this year, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) undertook a consultation as part of its new study into the resilience of the UK’s infrastructure network. LI Head of Policy and Influencing Aaron Burton outlines the key points of the LI’s response
Earlier this year, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) undertook a consultation as part of its new study into the resilience of the UK’s infrastructure network. The Landscape Institute (LI) submitted its response on 1 April 2019.
Landscapes – and how they are designed, managed, and used by the public – have a major impact on national infrastructure. They affect road, rail, energy, power and communications, water and waste management, and city growth; and these affect our landscapes in turn.
The key landscape-related resilience proposals from the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) 2018 included:
- ensuring resilience to extreme drought through additional supply and reduction of demand
- a national standard of flood resilience for all communities by 2050
- measures to make cities healthier, better designed and more habitable
This blog post summarises some of the points in our response. I will also be presenting on elements of this on day 2 of the Flood and Coast 2019 conference (Wednesday 19 June), as part of the session ‘Implementing the ambition of the 25-year Environment Plan for a climate-resilient society’.
What key resilience questions should the next NIA answer?
Our response provided key questions, linked back to the NIC Terms of Reference, on topics including:
- the definition of resilience
- public perceptions, behaviours and community involvement in resilient infrastructure
- the multiple benefits from green infrastructure options and the skills and types of professional expertise needed to deliver these
What issues should we prioritise?
We focussed our response on key issues linked to integrated approaches that can support resilience:
- Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). 96% of local authorities report that the quality of planning submissions for SuDS are either ‘mixed’ or ‘inadequate’. And as of 2017, 25% of local authorities had no formal SuDS policies in place, nor any immediate plans to implement any.
- Integrated Water Management. With pressures from drought also increasing, particularly in the South East and East of England, water reuse via SuDS can provide an alternative and more resilient decentralised water supply option. However, there remain barriers to developers implementing these approaches.
- Environment Net Gain. There is a risk to large-scale infrastructure proposals if wider environmental and social benefits around flooding, drought and biodiversity are not considered (e.g. if focus is on biodiversity only) as these benefits may not be realised.
What are the barriers?
And are there any examples of where barriers to resilience issues, arising from sectoral dependencies or other causes, have been addressed or overcome?
Our response identified the issue of those responsible for infrastructure working in silos. We set out the policy changes suggested in our recent survey of local authorities on SuDS. There are two case studies that we put forward where sectoral interdependencies have been overcome:
- Transitioning to Water-Sensitive Urban Design in Australia. Improved working between water utilities, local and state governments has been key to implementation of SuDS and integrated water management issues in cities such as Melbourne.
- Managing the Urban Heat Island in Singapore. A ‘whole of government’ approach has brought together many areas including energy policy, transport, building standards, planning and public health.