Comms experts guide Armitt on making UK infrastructure decisions together

Sir John Armitt heard advice this week from some of the country’s top communication and engagement professionals on how to deliver in practice his plan to make infrastructure decisions together as a nation.

The expert forum was organised at Pinsent Masons London office  by 100Vision Communications & Campaigns to start developing the detail of Sir John’s proposal to involve the whole country in deciding long-term infrastructure priorities.

The event was held just hours after Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander called on the infrastructure industry to help fire up the public about infrastructure and generate excitement about how it can change lives.

“Involving politicians, representative groups and the public in deciding our long-term infrastructure needs is essential to the UK’s future growth and quality of life. This is a challenge that can’t be achieved using the ‘old ways’ and we’ll need to learn from innovative work in other areas" - Armitt

 “We need to make infrastructure exciting again. As much as getting long term plans in place are important, firing up the country about infrastructure really matters too,” he said at ACE’s National Conference on Wednesday

Earlier this month the Green Alliance called for the establishment of a Citizen Voice to give the public say in infrastructure decisions. 

The Draft Infrastructure Bill that takes forward recommendations from the Armitt review of UK infrastructure decision-making aims to establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission that, every ten years, assesses Britain’s infrastructure need over the next 25-30 years.  The Labour Party has said that it will take the Bill through Parliament if elected in May.

It is a founding principle of the Draft Bill, is due to be published later this month in its final form following extensive consultation, that this assessment and the priorities it leads to is part of a national conversation on our infrastructure need. The 100Vision event was the start of developing the detail of how to achieve this in practice. 

The forum of senior communications and engagement professionals from a range of business, agencies, NGOs and Government departments, heard lessons from London 2012, both as a huge infrastructure project and a national moment, and the research-led approach that has made the ThisGirlCan campaign to involve more women in activity and sport such a success.

Com Res, the polling and research company, talked through what people feel now about local and national infrastructure and techniques that could be used to get beneath survey answers to find out more.

Workshops on how to engage the public and politicians threw up a host of challenges and creative ideas for Armitt and his team to consider. A recurring theme was the need for a national awareness campaign to increase understanding of what infrastructure is and why it is matters to us as individuals and a country. Many argued that this campaign should take place before the decision-making process.

Summing up at the expert forum Sir John Armitt said: “Involving politicians, representative groups and the public in deciding our long-term infrastructure needs and delivering our agreed priorities is essential to the UK’s future economic growth and quality of life.

“This is a challenge that can’t be achieved using the ‘old ways’ and we’ll need to learn from innovative work in other areas to deliver this engagement in practice. It is fantastic to have the input at this early stage from top communications and engagement professionals and proposals groups such as the Green Alliance. I look forward to further contributions as we develop the detailed strategy.”  

100Vision Director, Ben Hurley who worked with Sir John on London 2012 and organised the expert forum, said: “The fact that top professionals from infrastructure companies and delivery bodies, as well as a range of other sectors, were keen to take part shows the wider interest in having a genuine national conversation about our infrastructure needs and priorities.

“Some fantastic ideas and examples came out of the expert forum, which will provide the building blocks to develop a communications and engagement strategy to deliver the principles in the Draft Bill. The scale of the challenge was recognised by all who took part but there was confidence that it is possible to provide everyone with the opportunity to make infrastructure decisions together.”

A summary of the 100Vision expert forum and the materials and presentations is available at

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