A Place-Based Approach to Infrastructure Development?

26 May 2019

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ATCM Responds to the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland Consultation

This month, ATCM responded to a consultation on the formation an Infrastructure Commission for Scotland. Below is a joint response from Ojay McDonald, CEO of ATCM, and Adrian Watson, CEO of Aberdeen Inspired and Chair of ATCM Scotland.

Immense change in our economy is happening. The growth of industries driven by digital, automation and AI mean a radical restructuring of business practices. The threat of climate change dictates our ability to respond to this restructuring. With this in mind, ATCM Scotland believes the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, with a long-term vision for how we adapt to these major trends, has an invaluable role to play. We welcome it’s creation. 

In response to the consultation we would like to advocate an approach which is not held back by viewing key infrastructure in silos, but instead uses a place-based approach to much better understand how different aspects of infrastructure overlap.

In terms of a place-based approach, we also advocate that our town and city centres are seen as vital areas in the debate over infrastructure. They are locations important to both our economic and social wellbeing where so much activity is focussed.

Here are just some of the issues more specifically which we think the Infrastructure Commission should consider:

Local Public-Private Partnerships: Whether it is leading on the smaller projects that are locally significant, or helping to facilitate the strategic projects that are nationally significant, we encourage the Infrastructure Commission to engage with a myriad of local bodies including those who are ATCM’s members. This includes local authorities, Business Improvement Districts and other town/city management schemes across Scotland. They can provide support in delivering projects cost effectively, sustainably, and with the minimum amount of disruption through their local knowledge. 
The Role of Local Projects: We would encourage the Infrastructure Commission to take seriously the role of local projects that can do so much for unblocking growth for people and businesses in simple ways that are much harder to quantify than large, national projects.
Mixed Used Town Centres: The balance between domestic and non-domestic property in town centres needs to be right, fulfilling a range of activities including residential, retail, hospitality, commercial, health, leisure, education and community creating viable and vibrant locations that minimise urban sprawl.
Evolving Nature of Commercial Space: As digital transforms everything from the creative industries to manufacturing, we need to ensure the workspace of the future is fit purpose and able to capitalise on this.
Digital Connectivity: Consideration must be given to how we can continually renew digital infrastructure in challenging areas of urban density in order to boost productivity as technology progresses.
Fiscal: Local investment in infrastructure from public and private entities can be deterred or enabled by the business tax and local government finance frameworks. The Infrastructure Commission may find it useful to give these issues consideration.
Transportation and Mobility: Innovation and the need for carbon neutrality means we will need to continually rethink how people and goods move. We need to consider everything from the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles to the growth of drone technology and how this overlaps through the evolving towns and cities through a place-based lens.
Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change: We are at a point where unpredictable weather is impacting both economy and society. All recommendations from the Infrastructure Commission to the Scottish Government needs to be clear on it’s environmental impact in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Environmental sustainability must be at the heart of the Infrastructure Commission.