Plans to turn the Highways Agency into a government-owned company have been confirmed today (12 February 2015) after the Infrastructure Act received Royal Assent.
The Act will allow the creation of Highways England, a government-owned company which will use access to long term stable funding to ensure improvements on the country’s major road network are streamlined, cost efficient and encourage investment.
The legislation, which is designed to make it easier, quicker and simpler to get Britain building, will also give local people the right to buy a stake in renewable energy projects, while cutting red tape for nationally significant infrastructure projects to boost investment.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin (pictured) said: “This Act will hugely boost Britain’s competitiveness in transport, energy provision, housing development and nationally significant infrastructure projects. Cost efficient infrastructure development is all part of the government’s long-term economic plan, boosting competitiveness, jobs and growth.
“A key part of this act will be the creation of Highways England, which will for the first time use long-term sustained funding to deliver the government’s roads investment strategy, worth £15 billion, to deliver more than 100 schemes between now and the end of the next Parliament.
“Good transport is fundamental in helping our economy grow, which is why the government is making record levels of investment. That’s why we’re building a transport system that helps you get on and get around. Through the creation of Highways England we expect to see savings to the taxpayer of at least £2.6 billion over the next 10 years.”
The Act will:
- Turn the Highways Agency (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/highways-agency) into a government-owned company, Highways England, with stable long term funding to drive down costs to the taxpayer and make the new arms-length company more accountable to Parliament and to road users
- Enable surplus and redundant public sector land and property to be sold more quickly by cutting red tape, increasing the amount of previously used land available for new homes
- End unreasonable and excessive delays on projects which already have been granted planning permission, by a new ‘deemed discharge’ provision on planning conditions – this will help speed up house building
- Allow Land Registry to create a digitised Local Land Charges register that will improve access to data, standardise fees and improve turnaround times for property professionals and citizens
- Enable Land Registry to undertake new services that would further improve the conveyancing process or benefit the wider property sector
- Give local communities the right to buy a stake in renewable energy infrastructure projects
- Boost energy security and economic growth by extracting domestic shale gas, which has the potential to create jobs, making us less reliant on imports from abroad and help us tackle climate change, all within one of the most robust regulatory regimes in the world
- Set a cycling and walking investment strategy
- Improve the nationally significant infrastructure regime by making a number of technical administrative improvements to the Planning Act 2008
- Enable the creation of an allowable solutions scheme to provide a cost effective way for house builders to meet the zero carbon homes obligation.
A strategic road network monitor role will be undertaken by the Office of Rail Regulation, who will publish information on the performance of the new Highways England and will have the power to take action for poor performance.