New research reveals disconnect between infrastructure needs and public concern

The research shows that the government and businesses need to do a much better job of explaining the UK’s infrastructure investment needs, shifting the focus to why it matters locally and what benefits projects will bring.

It reveals that two thirds of people agree that decisions should be delayed so that the public’s views can be heard properly, even if this means that infrastructure weaknesses are not tackled when they need to be.

That compares with only 24 per cent who don’t think decisions should be delayed. People are currently more concerned by the inconvenience and potential disruption of upgrade work than the risk of failing to act.

The CBI commissioned research shows a stark disconnect between the need to invest in infrastructure to ensure the long-term success of our economy, to support businesses to grow and compete internationally and general public perception.

Nearly half of respondents are satisfied with the state of national infrastructure, with only a quarter dissatisfied. But according to the World Economic Forum the UK ranks only 28th in the world for quality of infrastructure.

Most public opposition which results in large infrastructure projects, like new power generation, roads, rail and aviation capacity, being held up is due to a lack of relevant information, failure to tackle residents’ legitimate concerns, and using the wrong decision-makers and spokespeople.

Instead the CBI argues that infrastructure needs to be ‘sold’ to the public based on:

  • The quality of life for local people
  • Local job opportunities
  • Local environment

The CBI poll found that people overwhelmingly trust technical experts to make national infrastructure decisions over politicians. But they also want their voice to be heard – when asked who they most trusted to represent local views about a project 42 per cent said “me and people like me”.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:”Our research reveals a major disconnect between what infrastructure investment we need for our long-term economic success compared with what the public accepts. We urgently need to upgrade our energy infrastructure to avoid future power shortages, for example.

“To bridge this perception gap government and businesses need to redouble their efforts to tell a convincing human interest story, which people can relate to and which explains the urgency of the investment the UK needs.