This article is taken from Jaunary’s CIWM magazine.
Rebecca Eatwell, director at communications consultancy PPS Group, asks whether the National Infrastructure Plan is good for waste
Last November, as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the Government launched a new National Infrastructure Plan. The plan is designed to kick start economic revival by re-allocating £5 billion of public funds into capital spending over the next five years.
This will include £700m in new schools, £370m in road improvements, and more than £300m on motorways. Encouragingly waste management is recognised as a sector which can contribute to economic growth, but does the plan go far enough to support the development of new infrastructure that the sector needs?
The plan includes a dedicated sub-section on waste, which reiterates the Government’s vision of a ‘zero waste economy’ outlined in the Waste Review published in June 2011. The Plan recognises the need for new waste infrastructure to deal with waste “at all levels of the hierarchy” to ensure efficient use of waste and resources as well as the best use of innovations in science and technology.
Various actions are outlined which aim to create the necessary infrastructure to meet EU Landfill Directive and Waste Framework Directive targets, but are any of these new and will they get us to where we need to be?
Securing funding is commonly cited as the biggest challenge to the delivery of new waste infrastructure and the plan outlines various pots of money allocated for waste management. However, in reality there is little that is new and no new investment has been pledged.
The plan refers to the various funding streams already in place – £2 billion Waste Infrastructure Credits (formally known as PFI credits), £10 million Anaerobic Digestion fund and the Green Investment Bank (GIB). The fact that commercial & industrial waste is identified as a ‘priority sector’ for the GIB is positive, although there is no indication at this stage how big the pot allocated to waste may be.
Policies and targets
The other commitments, such as the Responsibility Deal that will deliver from 2014 and the National Waste Management Plan that will be delivered by spring 2013, are also previously announced policies. In fairness, we wouldn’t expect to see any new waste policies or targets in an infrastructure plan, indeed we’re unlikely to see much in this regard until the publication of the National Waste Management Plan.
The plan recognises the inherent barriers to infrastructure development within the current planning system. Measures designed to improve the planning process through the Localism Act and the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are already progressing.
At the heart of the NPPF is the presumption in favour of sustainable development, designed to tackle barriers in planning. In addition the Government is proposing further measures to reduce the cost and time involved in delivering infrastructure projects. These include a review of the planning appeals process to make the system “faster and more transparent, improve consistency and increase certainty of decision timescales”.
However, waste planning is only included as a passing reference in the NPPF as national waste planning policy will be published alongside the National Waste Management Plan.
A missed opportunity?
The fact that waste features strongly in the plan is encouraging and suggests that the importance of new waste infrastructure is recognised.
However, with the Green Investment Bank yet to be launched, the National Waste Management Plan not to be delivered until 2013 and ongoing uncertainty over ROCs it is unlikely that the commitments in the plan will be enough to provide the certainty that is essential for attracting investment to the sector in the short term. Add to that the scepticism that planning reforms will not go far enough to ease the barriers facing developers of waste infrastructure and you can see why some in the industry have seen the Infrastructure Plan as a missed opportunity.
Written by reatwell