Leaders and decision-makers from key utility providers and eight local authorities joined together to develop plans and discuss future developments, to ensure the economic benefits from the Glasgow City Region City Deal are maximised for the region’s 1.8 million residents.
The £1.13 billion City Deal funding from the UK and Scottish governments will finance major infrastructure projects, create thousands of new jobs and assist thousands of unemployed people back to work, as well as improving public transport and connectivity.
At Friday’s Glasgow City Region Infrastructure Summit, senior representatives from 20 organisations discussed preparation for 5G, supporting businesses to improve how they operate, utilising technology to attract inward investment, and how infrastructure projects can cut carbon emissions and help the region adapt to climate change.
One of the key topics covered was how organisations can make better use of technology to deliver efficiency improvements and economic benefits. With smart technology now readily available – allowing physical devices to connect, collect and exchange data – the opportunities for councils already exist, such as introducing intelligent street lighting and road temperature monitoring.
Crucial to making these improvements is digital connectivity across the City Region, which will require significant co-ordination and partnership working. Digital connectivity is now considered to be the ‘fourth utility’ and therefore is a fundamental and necessary infrastructure component alongside gas, water and electricity.
Progress was also made on considering the way in which future infrastructure projects can be managed to support the Region’s commitments to reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
Representatives from Climate Ready Clyde – a cross-sector initiative working across Glasgow City Region to improve economic prosperity and quality of life in the face of climate change – outlined the risks climate change presents to the region’s infrastructure, their ongoing work to build capacity, and increase investment in climate-proof infrastructure, as well as the importance of shared approaches to investment planning and land use on the River Clyde in the years ahead.
Undoubtedly technology will play a massive part in this, with City Deal funded projects such the development of as Europe’s first ever ‘smart canal’ scheme on the Forth and Clyde Canal highlighting the type of projects which need to be taken forward to ensure infrastructure investment is climate-proofed for the future.
Councillor Tony Buchanan, leader of East Renfrewshire Council and holder of the Infrastructure portfolio for Glasgow City Region, said: “Real tangible benefits have already been achieved through having this forum for strategic discussion, and the resulting closer collaboration between local authorities and partners. Some key discussions about climate change, the use of technology and supporting businesses took place at the summit and I look forward to seeing these improvements being implemented to the benefit of our residents across Glasgow City Region. Time is now of the essence to ensure Glasgow City Region’s digital infrastructure makes the Region an attractive and competitive place to innovate, invest and live in and we are making significant progress.”
Scottish Water Chief Executive Douglas Millican, who co-chaired the summit, added: “The impacts of climate change are already clear for us to see. In the last two summers we have experienced the driest and wettest weather for decades which presented real challenges to Local Authorities and Utility Providers. At the summit it was encouraging to see how we have worked together to develop a collective approach to respond to the challenges of climate change and enable the Glasgow City Region to thrive. In the last year there has been significant progress and I am encouraged that this forum will continue to enable us to rise to the challenge of climate change and growth of the region, ensuring we all work together for the greater good of business, communities and residents.”
Utility and infrastructure providers represented at the summit were Scottish Water, SP Energy Networks, Network Rail, SGN, SEPA, City Fibre, Openreach and Virgin Media.