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Commission unveils priorities as it develops future infrastructure plan for Wales

John Lloyd Jones, interim chair of the NICW.

The National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) has published its first annual report, outlining that energy, digital communications and transport will be its focus for the coming year. 

The commission has also issued a call to all interested parties to submit their views and evidence on key issues, ahead of producing its first “state of the nation” report by November 2021.

The NICW was established in 2018 as a non-statutory body to advise and make recommendations to Welsh ministers on Wales’ economic and environmental infrastructure needs over the next five to thirty years.

In its first year, the commission says it has taken an overall view of the current state of Wales’ infrastructure and gained some understanding of how changes in the economy, the environment and technology will demand new forms of infrastructure. It has identified decarbonisation, connectivity and resilience as the key themes which will run through its work.

The development of the body’s infrastructure plan is in its early stages but the NICW has reached some provisional views for which it now seeks evidence and has identified ten key issues on which it will focus in the coming year. These include:

Digital communications: The commission’s provisional view is that 4G and 5G mobile broadband may be the lowest cost technology to provide superfast connections to some Welsh households and that a greater proportion of public funds should be allocated to mobile rather than to fixed broadband.

Energy: The commission seeks further evidence on how to rapidly improve the relationship between Wales’ energy grid and the future growth of renewable energy, including innovations in energy storage, electrical engineering, the planning system, and other government interventions.

Transport: The commission seeks evidence on the infrastructure barriers to the transition to zero emission road transport and how they can be overcome, especially in rural areas where the market may not provide the solution

By November 2021 the commission says it will set out a plan for Wales’ infrastructure, which will enable the Welsh government to develop an affordable strategy for the country’s infrastructure needs and help shape a prosperous future in which all can share.

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch, interim chair of the NICW, John Lloyd Jones, said: “This report sets out our early thinking and identifies priorities for further investigation. But we must stress that this is still early in the process and we will not rush to make recommendations to the Welsh ministers until we have found compelling evidence for infrastructure solutions.

“Commissioners have been eager to engage a wide variety of users and providers of infrastructure to understand their aspirations and concerns for the future. Wales is a diverse country with differing needs. During the year we have visited North, mid and South Wales to hear about the opportunities and challenges in different parts of the country. We are grateful to the many people who have helped us. We will produce our first “state of the nation” report by November 2021."

The call for evidence is open until 27 March 2020.

Click here to visit the NICW website to download the annual report, call for evidence and a baseline data report.