Industry welcomes infra bank

UK infrastructure experts have broadly backed the government’s plans for a National Infrastructure Bank, but questions remain over its usage.

Following Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s confirmation in the Spending Review yesterday that the government would create a new bank for investing in infrastructure projects, experts suggested that the move could be an important driver in boosting new private investment into infrastructure.

“Rishi Sunak's recognition that infrastructure plans need private finance if they are to happen quickly and efficiently suffuses the National Infrastructure Strategy and is very welcome," said Graham Mather, president of The Infrastructure Forum.

“We are particularly pleased that government has accepted the Commission’s proposal for an infrastructure investment bank, to help catalyse private investment,” added Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.

However, some raised concerns over the role of the bank. Mark Richards, partner and EMEA head of energy, environment and infrastructure at law firm BCLP, said that while the launch of the bank was “interesting”, there is “currently no shortage of capital in the market for well-structured and developed infrastructure projects”.

He suggested the bank should be focused on “early stage capital for development projects and infrastructure deploying new and unproven technologies”.

Mark Elsey, infrastructure partner at law firm Ashurst, added that while the announcement was welcome, the confirmation that no PFI or PPP model is considered to deliver value “significantly limits the available funding options”.

“The Commission will monitor government’s progress on delivery and very much hope this strategy marks the beginning of a renewed focus on long-term infrastructure policy around which industry and investors can plan with confidence,” concluded Armitt.

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