Today Sir John Armitt proposed the creation of an independent body to tackle Britain’s poor record on the planning and delivery of major infrastructure projects.
Sir John has a strong pedigree, having chaired the Olympic Delivery Authority for the 2012 Games. His National Infrastructure Commission aims to remove big strategic decisions about transport, energy or telecoms schemes from the political bear pit.
And that’s where it starts to unravel. Planning – especially where big landscape-changing projects are concerned – is inherently political. These decisions can’t be ducked or handed over to committees of the great and good. Plans need to be talked about, fought over and – in some cases – thrown out if that’s the decision people want to make. You can’t take the politics out of planning.