In the rush to build our way out of the slump we must not abandon what makes infrastructure so valuable in the first placeby Sadie Morgan / June 16, 2020 / Leave a comment
During the last three months of effective lockdown, it has been tempting to allow our horizons to narrow—both as a nation and as individuals. The crisis has confined us to our homes and consumed the government, sowing uncertainty about what the world will look like in a fortnight’s time, let alone in the next decade.
With each of us better acquainted with the walls surrounding us, the pandemic has temporarily bridled many of our personal ambitions and the progress we wanted for our communities. And yet, while the moment is downcast, we must keep an optimistic eye on the future.
The coronavirus outbreak has caused a massive reset, carrying with it a painfully bleak emotional and economic toll. On the other side will be a “new normal,” and while much of what awaits us is unknown, ministers must not lose sight of the opportunities we do have to write our own future (and therefore our own history).
With attention turning to recovery, the built environment will have a crucial and symbolic part to play. As consideration is given to ways of improving our planning system, there is an understandable need for rapid progress. We must move at pace to get the economy going, but a careful balance should be struck to ensure that speed is accompanied by quality and sustainability.
After weeks in isolation, we have all been forced to consider how fundamentally our homes, neighbourhoods and communities affect our enjoyment of life. We should see this deepening understanding as a lesson: one that expands our aspirations and drives us to do things better.
Those entrusted with making decisions about how we build our way back to prosperity must resist the temptation to make it a race to the bottom. Yes, we have to act swiftly, but we can’t afford to cut corners if new developments are to have a powerful and long-lasting legacy. As a member of the National Infrastructure Commission, I know this holds true when it comes to large-scale projects—we have to squeeze every last drop of the transformational potential these huge investments offer.
Back in February, the commission’s expert Design Group, which I chair, produced the UK’s first-ever design principles for national infrastructure. Despite being conceived and published in a different age, they have never been more relevant.
This guidance seeks to embed four key considerations into the…