Hampshire County Council welcomed the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to Winchester today (Friday 20 January) as host of a major regional South East stakeholder conference to help the Commission fully understand the growing pressures on the region’s infrastructure and its future needs.
Tasked by Government to assess the UK’s future economic infrastructure needs over the next thirty years, the NIC delegation heard about key transport and environmental plans that would help the area to continue to grow and prosper. Leading politicians from the South East’s county and unitary authorities were joined by other stakeholders including representatives from ABP Ports (Southampton), Heathrow Airport, Highways England and Network Rail.
Leader of Hampshire County Council and Chair of the meeting, Councillor Roy Perry, said: ‘I am delighted that the NIC chose Hampshire County Council to host their regional conference with us.
‘We have had some very interesting discussions on the vital contribution the South East makes to the national economy but also the pressure we find ourselves under in terms of congestion and housing growth.
‘We need investment in both physical infrastructure but also in digital communications to ensure the region remains competitive and that our rural communities do not lose out.’
Talks at the stakeholder meeting included potential transport solutions to help ease congestion between Dover to London and the need for better rail services from the south coast to London and the Midlands, as well as improved access to Gatwick and Heathrow. The importance of investing in flood defences and mobile connections (5G) was also discussed.
Councillor Perry continued:
‘Hampshire’s strategic location provides a gateway between the major international port of Southampton, London and the Midlands. The port of Southampton is the UK’s leading export port, with £40 billion of British manufactured goods passing through it each year.
‘This coupled with the fact over 421,000 people commute from the South East to London every day, shows the fundamental importance we play in the national economy. However, it also demonstrates that the South East’s infrastructure is now creaking under the pressure and at peak times is at full capacity.
‘This meeting has therefore given us the opportunity to ensure the South East can demonstrate the investment it needs in critical strategic infrastructure in order to maintain its connectivity and maintain our massive contribution to the national economy.’
Commissioner of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sadie Morgan, said: ‘We’ve come to listen and better understand the infrastructure needs of the South East region. This is a huge and exciting opportunity for us to work together across authorities to improve people’s quality of life and support sustained economic growth.’
Following the morning’s stakeholder discussions the NIC delegation will be visiting a new housing development in Waterlooville to see a sustainable urban drainage system in operation and restoration and flood management work to the river Wallington.
Speaking about the visit, Councillor Rob Humby, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Hampshire County Council said:
‘It is important to highlight the type of high-tech drainage and flood defence work that can be installed to avoid situations we have had to sadly face in the past where roads are severely flooded.
‘If Hampshire is able to continue to grow new developments then we would need the right investment to get systems such as these installed and maintained to protect Hampshire’s residents, our roads and the economy.’