David Rae: Counting cranes

This story is over

The numbers of large cranes visible in a city on major construction projects is sometimes used as an indicator of economic health and recovery.

By this metric, Lincoln is certainly prospering at the moment, with large cranes visible on the skyline recently around the new Transport Hub, the University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, science park and even closer to home at Bishop Grosseteste University, where steelwork has been assembled for the new lecture theatre above the Constant Stewart Building.

Not only does Lincolnshire have specialist crane hire firms able to supply large cranes, we also have excellent construction and engineering sectors able to undertake such schemes.

Investment in large infrastructure projects creates demand for technical skills and jobs, as well as building a platform for future economic growth. The lead time for such projects can be 10 years or much more in planning and funding; think of how long the Transport Hub and Eastern Bypass have been talked about – apparently 90 years in the latter case.

Lincoln had not benefited from infrastructure investment comparable with other Midlands centres until quite recently, and there is an element of catch-up through some of these investments.

It is certainly the case that the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and its partners, including Lincolnshire County Council, universities and other organisations, have performed well in bringing investment funding to Lincoln for these projects.

Recent announcements suggest positive news that the LEP and the new unitary authority are poised for continued success in winning further investment, even as EU funding tails off in the years ahead. We certainly hope so. Let’s see if the southern bypass link can be completed before 2030.

Not only does Lincolnshire merit the investment in its future, but a pipeline of such projects will help maintain a healthy construction industry and highly skilled jobs in the county required to complete them.

In closing, just three points. It is vital to make the right choices in designing and building new projects to meet future demand in decades to come; cost scrimping does not make long-term sense. Building sections of the A46 around Lincoln and Newark as single carriageways was, in retrospect, a costly mistake, now resulting in long delays and risky driving. Let’s not make the same mistake again.

Second, towns and districts away from Lincoln also need infrastructure investment in, for example, town centre amenities and transport; not only in North and North East Lincolnshire, but also the network of market towns such as Sleaford, Spalding, Louth, Boston and Market Rasen.

Finally, it’s not only about roads: rail and integrated transport investment is needed too. So is investment, both of public and private money, in health, education, business premises and affordable housing. The last of these is important enough to deserve its own column in the future.