Engagement with civic society is key to delivering new infrastructure

At last week’s Infrastructure Investment and Delivery in Wales Conference (http://www.cewales.org.uk/2015/11/what-next-for-wales-infrastructure/) hosted by Constructing Excellence Wales, one of the key themes to be repeated is that a lack of public understanding and support is a major hurdle when it comes to enabling progress of major new infrastructure. 

During this time of austerity there are bound to be challenges when it comes to convincing the public that building new infrastructure is a prudent use of public money when competing with essential public services for funds.  This results in proposals becoming political footballs to then be kicked around in the media, inevitability lessening the level of public confidence.  However, it is generally acknowledged that there is a clear need for improved infrastructure across Wales and the UK to help ensure long-term economic recovery and growth – so how do we start ensuring an improved level of positive engagement with civic society when it comes to infrastructure in Wales?

Essentially, a joined up approach to campaigning for the delivery of new infrastructure is needed to tackle political debate head on and attempt to change the tone of the media coverage and social dialogue taking place.   The recently established Homes for Wales campaign (https://twitter.com/HomesforWales) is one such example of a collaborative approach to getting out key messages about the need for development. 

The Welsh Government has identified that a more joined up approach overall to the delivery of infrastructure would be beneficial, due to the complexities of the required alignment of political representatives, government and the private sector in order to facilitate delivery.  Therefore, Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business, has announced plans for the establishment of a Wales Infrastructure Forum to enable key players to come around the table and agree a strategy for progress. 

Although this may not be the correct platform to launch an actual campaign – communications will hopefully be high up on the agenda.  This will hopefully result longer term in a more joined up and assertive approach to ensuring a wider public understanding of the value of new infrastructure and why it is key to enabling the Dragon Economy to take flight.