Infrastructure, planning and the command of time

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Marshall, Tim ; Cowell, Richard John Westley (2016)

Governments in many countries have sought to accelerate the time taken to make\ud decisions on major infrastructure projects, citing problems of ‘delay’. Despite this, rarely\ud has the time variable been given careful empirical or conceptual attention in decisionmaking\ud generally, or in infrastructure decision-making specifically. This paper addresses\ud this deficit by analysing decision-making on two categories of major infrastructure in the\ud UK – transport and electricity generation – seeking both to generate better evidence of\ud the changes to decision times in recent decades, and to generate insights from treating\ud time as resource and tracking its (re)allocation. We find that reforms introduced since\ud 2008 have done relatively little to alter overall decision times, but that there are marked\ud and revealing changes to the allocation of time between decision-making stages. While\ud public planning processes have their time frames tightly regulated, aspects led by\ud developers (e.g. pre-application discussion) are not; arranging finance can have a bigger\ud effect on project time frames, and central government retains much flexibility to manage\ud the flow of time. Speed-up reforms are also sectorally uneven in their reach. This\ud indicates how arguments for time discipline falter in the face of infrastructure projects\ud that remain profoundly politicised.
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