The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has highlighted the need for devolution of key decision making processes after a high profile panel discussion in Parliament.

Hosted at Portcullis House, the event, entitled ‘Powering the North; next steps for delivering an infrastructure strategy’ follows the launch of a detailed report delivered by the ICE’s Northern Powerhouse Steering Group.

The Delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy report outlines how well planned, delivered and managed infrastructure has the capacity to unlock the North’s potential, increasing productivity and improving quality of life.

Penny Marshall, the ICE’s regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and Humber, said: “Unlocking the economic potential of the North of England through investment, skills development and modern infrastructure in a devolved setting remains a key goal both for policy makers in the North and for the ICE.

“Local communities have the best understanding of their local transport, energy, housing and utility needs. Giving the North the power to take control of its development remains fundamental to ensuring the region closes the productivity and skills gap with the rest of the UK and becomes a leader both at home and abroad.”

Chaired by the ICE Vice President UK Regions,Dr Jane Smallman, the panel discussed the report’s recommendations, the progress of the Northern Powerhouse initiative and also participated in a question and answer session.

The panel consisted of Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Infrastructure at KPMG and Chair of the ICE’s Northern Powerhouse Steering Group, Steve Gillingham from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Jonathan Spruce representing Transport for the North.

Richard Threlfall said: “The North needs vision, leadership and self confidence. Our aspiration is not just to close the skills and productivity gap but to improve quality of life. The North was once the power house for both the UK and the world. The recommendations in the ICE Delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy report will help the north to achieve this once again.”

This positive message was reinforced by Chi Onwurah MP who commented: “Industrial Strategies can change lives, building an economy we want rather than leaving decisions to the mercy of the markets.”

Jonathan Spruce explained: “We need increased devolution and a better understanding of local needs so that we can come together and argue for what we need in infrastructure, skills and housing as a united region.”

Steve Gillingham said: “If there is one thing I hope people get worked up about it’s the skills agenda. The North needs aspiration and to get young people ready for further and higher education.”