The government should create an organisation that involves the public in major infrastructure schemes, in order to prevent projects like the Stanford West lorry park being dropped.
A report from the independent Institute for Government (IfG), argues that the UK is poor at engaging with the public and local communities on large scale infrastructure projects, which often results in opposition and postponement.
The IfG said that a commission for public engagement would reduce costly delays by giving people an opportunity to influence decisions.
It should draw on the example of the Commission Nationale du Débat Public in France, which has successfully reduced public opposition to major projects.
The government abandoned the planned lorry park in Stanford West, which was supposed to be a solution to congestion caused by Operation Stack, after conceding it would not win a judicial review granted to campaigners who objected to the scheme.
The IfG report said a failure to engage with local communities had serious consequences, often resulting in wholesale opposition, which then leads to “massive uncertainty, delays and additional cost.”
The report also found that the absence of a national strategy for infrastructure had serious implications, with new projects “dreamt up, reframed, scrapped and reinvented, seemingly with little consideration of long-term objectives.”
Nick Davies, IfG associate director, said: “With no overarching strategy and projects spread across eight different government departments and various tiers of local government, it is no wonder infrastructure decisions in this country continue to be plagued by uncertainty, delays and increased costs.”