The UK government has unveiled a number of measures that could encourage investment in infrastructure, including plans to speed up planning processes, improve its “concierge service” for large international investors, and consolidate pools of domestic retirement capital.
In his Autumn Statement to Parliament, chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he would reform the planning system, saying that businesses “would be willing to pay more if they know their application would be approved faster”.
Under the plans, local authorities would be able to recover the costs of business planning applications in return for being required to meet “guaranteed faster timelines”, and Hunt said that, “if they fail, fees will be refunded automatically”.
Ted Frith, chief operating officer at GLIL Infrastructure, a £3.6bn (€4.12bn) infrastructure fund backed by local government pension schemes, said: “The lack of planning resources has been a source of frustration for infrastructure investment. Many developments have faced long delays, and some even lose their investors, depriving the country of the infrastructure upgrade the UK needs to supercharge economic growth.
“The government’s proposed changes will hopefully deliver more certainty and stability, and give investors the confidence they need to support investment in the UK.”
The government also published its full response to an independent review of the UK’s electricity transmission infrastructure, which needs investment if the UK is to meet its net-zero targets.
Hunt said that it “was taking too long for clean-energy businesses to access the electricity grid” and the government would seek to remedy this after consultation with companies including National Grid, Octopus Energy and SSE.
“These measures will cut grid access delays by 90%”, he said, while also over time reduce the energy bills of households close to renewable energy projects.
Hunt also said the government had accepted all of the “headline recommendations” made by Lord Richard Harrington in his review into increasing foreign direct investment.
They include additional resources for the office for investment, which the government said would be able to “deepen its world-class concierge offer to strategically important investors”.
Hunt said: “We will put in place a concierge service for large international investors modelled on the best such services by our competitors”.
Plans to move ahead with pension reforms, which could help funnel more domestic institutional capital into unlisted assets, including infrastructure, were also announced.
Hunt said he would bring forward his Mansion House reforms, starting with measures to consolidate the UK’s defined contribution (DC) pensions sector into £30bn-plus funds by 2030.
Under his plans, company employees would be given the legal right to ask their employer to pay into a retirement fund of their choice. “The majority of workplace DC savers will have their pension pots managed in schemes over £30bn by 2040,” he said.
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