Supporting the UK’s Growing Population Through Improved Infrastructure

The UK’s population is growing quicker than ever before, and the number of people in the country has doubled over the last 140 years. Although there are around 66 million people currently living in the UK, it’s expected that this figure will grow to 73 million by 2041. But is our government ready and able to support us all?

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, revealed in the 2017 Budget that the government will commit to building 300,000 homes each year to combat the housing shortage across the country. While this positive news will increase the number of homes on the market, improving the current 10-year low, we can’t ignore the fact that fewer people are taking out mortgages.

The government has acknowledged this by extending the Help to Buy scheme, which is now set to end in 2023. As well as this, most first-time buyers of shared ownership properties will no longer pay stamp duty. This means it is easier than ever before for young people to get on the property ladder.

Although the government is taking steps forward to combat the housing crisis, they need to be casting their nets wider and look at the benefits of good infrastructures in regard to local economies. Not only will this ensure that the quality of life is not compromised when future developments start, but it will also support a new workforce that is eager to build a better country. Here, geoenvironmental consultancy firm Patrick Parsons take a look at how the UK can support its growing population through improved infrastructure.

National Infrastructure Delivery Plan & Investment

The government is currently laying down the foundations for improved infrastructure, a greater economy, and a better society for future generations to live in with a pipeline that is worth around £600bn. Interestingly, a total more than a quarter of a trillion pounds has been invested in UK infrastructure since 2010, with around 3,000 projects being completed across the country.

This included impressive road and local transport schemes, improvements to rail stations, and more than 20GW of new electricity generation capacity. Now, over 3.5 million premises have access to superfast broadband for the first time. As well as this, more than 175,000 homes are better protected from floods which have had harsh impacts on local communities in recent years.

A well-performing housing market is key to the health of the wider economy. Currently, housing construction supports around 600,000 jobs in the UK — breaking this down to 4.3 for every new home built.

Despite these positive numbers, and the future goals set out by the government, housing supply has not been able to keep up with the demand. As a result of this, economic and social consequences have impacted millions through lower growth and fewer jobs. Families living in cramped conditions with little hope to own their own property is not acceptable in 2019 Britain.

The Route to Supporting Housing

A direct result of increased housing developments puts pressure on a range of factors on both a local and national level. This means all projects must be approached with great attention to detail. These factors often include local transportation links. As a result, national programmes of investment infrastructure must support local plans that are being rolled out. Some of the projects we are currently seeing include HS2 and Crossrail (Old Oak Common), East-West Rail (Bicester Garden Town), the A14 (Northstowe), and extension of London Overground services to Barking Riverside.

As well as these ongoing projects, the Strategic Road Network is crucial to England’s imminent growth plans. When looking at Highways England specifically, they’ve recently set up the Growth and Housing Fund to ensure its prompt response to future development opportunities relating to new housing and enterprise zones. This fund is worth £100 million and will show that its equipped to match-fund infrastructure to enable new developments.

In hand with this, £2 billion of the Home Building Fund will provide recoverable government loans to the private sector which will result in the delivery of larger housing sites. This builds on the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund where more than 100,000 homes have been achieved to date. From this, we’ve witnessed the government initiate the Starter Homes Land Fund prospectus. With this, Local Authorities have had the opportunity to access £1.2 billion of funding to remediate brownfield land and build a minimum of 30,000 Starter Homes. Despite the UK’s common conception that there are not enough houses, building on brownfield land has caused mass debate among communities. There is concern that Britain will lose its quintessential country landscape through such investments. Plus, there’s the mass amounts of pressure put on local services, with many encouraging investments to be moved to more urban settings. Despite this, the Housing and Planning Bill proposes to ensure that 90% of suitable brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020.

The government wants to guarantee that these areas can raise the funds to support the further developments they will need. This will again likely include transport, schools, and health services for example. To aid this, the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is available to provide a faster and fairer way of collecting developer contributions to local infrastructure which many councils are currently adopting.

The Help of Social Infrastructure

A housing infrastructure plan must be supported by social infrastructure. By the end of 2020-21, the government wants to use an investment off £23 billion to deliver 500 new schools. This money will also support around 600,000 additional school places. Not only are we set to welcome new educational facilities, but we’ll see the refurbishment and rebuilding of over 250 other schools. This is no surprise with the UK increasing the average budget for both primary (1.6%) and secondary (0.7%) schools for 2016/17.

Aside from new schools, we’re expected to see two new hospitals in Brighton and Birmingham, a third was recently complete in Cambridgeshire. On a similar scale, over £400m is being invested to create new, world-class, public health laboratories in Harlow which will position Britain on an even bigger scale for its health offerings and equally is knowledge and experience in the sector.

Social infrastructure also includes the development of prisons. By the end of the described time period, we can expect to see five new prison facilities with four more in construction. While this may seem a daunting thought to process, criminal activity still remains at the forefront of everyone’s agenda. Overall levels of crime have remained broadly stable in recent years, but increases were found in some of the less frequently occurring, but higher-harm types of violence which included knife crime.

As you can see, everything ties in together when it comes to developing a great infrastructure plan the UK. Each area relates back to increased housing and job opportunities for people across the country. Social infrastructure specifically plays a significant role in helping the government achieve its objectives in the health, education and criminal justice sectors. It will be interesting to see whether the country will meet its current aims on a national scale.