Mr Cameron said he was ready to ignore “furious objections” to make sure the country has better transport links and enough housing.He admitted there would be “costs and protests” about the construction projects, especially a new airport runway near London.He has also faced fierce criticism over the Coalition’s new planning reforms, which campaigners fear will give developers a “licence to build” on unspoilt countryside.
However, the Prime Minister said short-term unpopularity was a price worth paying, as Britain so desperately needs new towns, motorways and airport capacity to stay competitive.“I am certainly not doing it in the hope of immediate political advantage,” he said in a speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers. “I can see the furious objections – the banner headlines – already. But rather than give in we should ask instead “What is it that people want for the future?’.”
The Prime Minister said the UK will need a bigger airport in the south-east in order to be competitive, even though the Government has rejected a third runway for Heathrow. This could either be through the development of current airports or the new proposal for a “hub” in the Thames estuary, which is promoted by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.His comments that the Government is “open-minded” about all possibilities raised speculation that a new proposal to expand Heathrow could be tabled in the next parliament.
Mr Cameron also gave his support to a new generation of “garden” towns, built to the same model as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire.Although there are concerns that new towns would be built on countryside, the Prime Minister pledged that these would be attractive and full of green spaces.He has also ordered Treasury civil servants to see whether privatising some of Britain’s road network would offer value for money for drivers.
More road tolling will also be considered for new routes, but not existing ones.To improve Britain’s internet access, ten cities in the UK will learn this week that they will get “super-fast” broadband networks.Mr Cameron said the new projects marked a change in “horizon”, as the Government would place more emphasis on Britain’s long-term success.The Prime Minister said the country has until now had a “failure of vision” and “failure of nerve” when it comes to major infrastructure.
He painted a bleak picture of a Britain in a current state of gridlock, as “our roads are congested and our key hub airport is full”.“Our railways are crowded and expensive,” Mr Cameron said. “Compared to the French, Dutch and Swiss railways our fares are 30 per cent higher, our running costs 40 per cent higher and our public subsidy is double.”You have to admit, it’s something of a miracle to achieve high fares, big subsidies and poor performance – all at the same time.”
However, in future, he promised the UK would build projects “with Victorian swagger and intended to last like Norman castles” to stop falling even further behind countries like China.“We will take difficult decisions,” he said. “We will risk short-term unpopularity.
And we will hold fast to our vision in the face of vested interests, because our motivation and our duty is to protect and champion the national interest.”Changes to the planning system to encourage more development are expected to be unveiled this week in the face of opposition from groups such as the National Trust. the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and almost 40 Conservative MPs. – Thetelegraph