Mixed messages on major infrastructure as Hinkley Point is 'paused'
It has been an interesting week for large infrastructure projects in the UK. The decision on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick has been delayed (yet again). Ministers have backed an expansion to London City Airport; and last night, only a few hours after the EDF board voted to approve the investment, the government put the Hinkley Point C project on hold whilst they read into the background.
Delivering large scale infrastructure projects in this country is notoriously difficult and often highly controversial. Every decision that needs to be taken is likely to upset a section of the electorate and balancing long term necessity against short term political realities is challenging for even the most determined government.
The decisions taken over this last week paint a picture of a new government that is refusing to be rushed into decisions before they have had a chance to properly think through the likely outcomes. This does, however, send some very mixed messages about the UK's attitude towards inward investment at a time when attracting it is more crucial than ever.
Hours after EDF's board voted to approve the £18bn power plant on Thursday, the government launched a further review of the project.
This stunning new development came all the way from the top of government and the timing seemed calculated to cause maximum impact.
EDF executives were taken completely off guard, the post-Brexit run of major investment is abruptly halted and what precious entente cordiale in Anglo-French relations there is left after the EU referendum result seems diminished.
Is it a genuine pause for a new government to read the small print of a project that is two administrations old, or a signal of a potential change in policy?”