There have been series of reports in the past couple of weeks from leading institutions on the UK’s infrastructure needs, each of which is immediately relevant to the GDF programme.
The Infrastructure & Projects Association (IPA), the government body charged with ensuring high performance and best practice in the delivery of major public projects, published its Annual Report 2018, in which the risk assessment for the GDF programme was raised to an Amber/Red ‘escalated risk’: “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible.”
However the IPA does subsequently note that progress has been made since it made that assessment, saying: “The rating reflects the early stages of a long term programme that involves working in partnership with communities and which has experienced slippage due to a number of external factors. In November 2017 the IPA completed a project assessment review and reported an overall Delivery Confidence Assessment of Amber. Further progress was achieved in January 2018 with the launch of two consultations: the draft Working with Communities policy and the draft National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure.”
This caution by the IPA is in line with the recent National Audit Office (NAO) report on Sellafield, in which delays in progressing the GDF programme are identified as a major risk to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority achieving its objectives.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has also published its first ever National Infrastructure Assessment. The Assessment does not specifically reference the GDF, but does clearly lay out the nation’s needs to plan better for its long term needs, and provides a clear narrative and framework in which the GDF can easily be seen as critical to regional development, delivering the industrial strategy, and helping to achieve a low-carbon future.
The Institute for Government (IfG) have also published a report entitled: How to be a minister: Making decisions on infrastructure. The report offers advice to Ministers, most pertinently saying:
But the advice is not just to Ministers. The IfG’s analysis should underpin the approach of the whole GDF programme.
The GDF programme has not yet risen onto the horizons of these bodies in any substantive sense, and yet it will be one of the largest, longest-living and longest-lasting infrastructure projects in this country. We will be returning to this issue in the autumn.