There is a growing awareness on the part of SURF over the past year of the need to further develop linkages and interfaces between infrastructure and community regeneration. SURF Associate Edward Harkins here outlines the opportunity for the two sectors to build on their shared goals.

SURF members may have heard recent statements by Scottish Government Finance Minister John Swinney, and Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil, that made it clear that ‘infrastructure’ had been moved up in the order of public policy and strategic priorities for the Scottish Government. There was, of course, also the development of Alex Neil’s portfolio from Minster for Housing and Regeneration to Cabinet Secretary for Capital Investment and Infrastructure.

Meantime, examples of the growing linkages between infrastructure and regeneration might include: the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland’s policy paper ‘Paying the Piper’ (2011) that posed the question: ‘is housing infrastructure?’, and the paper ‘Time to get it Right’ (2011) in which the Institute of Engineers in Scotland called for a step change in the levels of investment in infrastructure.

At a UK Government level, the language used by Treasury Minister Lord Sassoon in a speech to the infrastructure industry cited ‘transformational’ infrastructure projects as a priority for Government investment. This language is similar to the language used for many regeneration projects.

The TUC, Institute of Directors and CBI, among others, have also added their support to higher investment in infrastructure – including for regeneration purposes. SURF is, however, equally aware that engagement around community and socio-economic considerations has not figured much in policy and strategy making and practice in theinfrastructure sector. It is, conversely, probably also the case that many practitioners and practitioners in the community and social fields are not conversant with what exactly ‘infrastructure’ is. It might even be the case that some policy advisors in those fields do not feel themselves conversant with what exactly ‘infrastructure’ is.

SURF is, therefore, assessing the existing and emergent factors suggesting that it should or could have a role in enabling members take a more active interest and involvement in infrastructure policy, strategy and practice. The factors include:

a) Relevance to community regeneration of developments in policy and strategy on infrastructure.
b) The scale of public and private sector expenditure on infrastructure envisaged;
c) Wider cross-sector impacts of infrastructure policy and operations

SURF is currently taking soundings with members and other stakeholders to ascertain their views on any appropriate and feasible role or services that SURF could be providing for its members in the area of policy and practice.