Belfast Telegraph

CBI calls on Stormont to focus on 'crucial' infrastructure projects

By Lesley Houston

The Executive must focus on infrastructure projects to ensure the economy remains competitive, according to the CBI.

The lobbyists said root and branch reform of the approach to infrastructure is needed and said improvements to energy provision are vital.

The CBI called for the creation of a centralised procurement body to develop and progress specific infrastructure projects and said Stormont's Finance Minister should be given the final say on their delivery and capital budget.

The body also reiterated its call for the establishment of a Department for the Economy to assume control of central government planning powers and said the whole approach to planning should be reformed to create a clear Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland.

CBI NI's senior police advisor David Fry said the report, Infrastructure – Investing For Our Future had been drawn up in response to a "significant level of frustration for our members over the delivery of our infrastructure".

He said a "central pillar" of the report was the need for "urgent government focus on the electricity grid to support inward investment and to maintain network reliability".

It said another North/South Interconnector is "the single most important infrastructure priority for our members", and "should be speedily taken forward".

He said the extension of gas pipeline to the west of the province "should be driven forward with urgency" and that gas storage and even the controversial issue of fracking should be considered to make the most effective use of the existing framework.

The CBI report also said the government must deliver pivotal delayed road schemes.

It identified the main priorities as the York Street interchange – or extension of the West Link towards the M2; A6 and A5 schemes, and Sprucefield bypass.

The CBI paper said these schemes would "significantly enhance the connectivity" between Belfast, Londonderry and Dublin.

Vice-chair of the region's CBI Improving Infrastructure Committee Adrian Eakin said a centralised procurement and delivery agency was also a vital reform.

He said: "Relatively simple steps can make our system much more fit for purpose and in turn, project a view to investors that Northern Ireland is a place which puts the delivery of infrastructure at the top of its agenda."

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