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Infrastructure Debate
The Great Infrastructure Debate, 
April 2012
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The Future of Energy for the North East,
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Visions for the Future of the City, 
October 2011
Sustained Engagement

The Great Debate in partnership with the Living Laboratory, new economics foundation,
RCE North East / NECTER, Institution of Civil Engineers, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, and Durham University present

The Great Infrastructure Debate
8:00 - 10:30am, Thursday, 26 April 2012
Devonshire Building, Newcastle University

Options     Videos     Outcomes     Partners     Speakers     Links

Part of the Sustained Engagement project funded by Royal Academy of Engineering.

Is the North East's infrastructure fit for purpose? The North East has a proud industrial heritage which has shaped the infrastructure of the region, but does it suits our needs now and will it in the future? Providing the right infrastructure requires investment and vision and we need to think now about where the region is going and which infrastucture we need to prioritise to get us where we want to go. The Great Infrastructure Debate explored these issues with a group of five engineers and a public audience. The Crowd Wise process designed by new economics foundation was then used to seek a consensus.

The event was introduced by ICE President, Richard Coackley and facilitated by Caspar Hewett and Stephanie Glendinning. The options were introduced by five speakers: A Edward Bentley, Northumbria University; B Richard Dawson, Newcastle University; C Stephanie Henderson, Environment Agency; D Laura O’Toole, Jacobs; E Tony Quinn, National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).

In association with the Institution of Civil Engineers

What infrastructure do we need to prioritise to develop the region's potential over the next thirty years?

The initial vote in which options were ranked by the audience in order of priority, and the opening presentations, were framed around the above question. The initial options were:


Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles
Given our present dependence on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles for mobility and distribution, the future will either hold a radical rearrangement of our transport arrangements or else a non-fossil-fuel-based system – the Electric Vehicle is one solution. To encourage the adoption of Electric Vehicles in a timely fashion, a charging infrastructure should be created.


Resource efficiency
We need to be much more intelligent about our use and re-use of materials, energy and other resources. Infrastructure can deliver efficiencies through circulating resources across infrastructures and businesses, from introducing district heating systems throughout cities through to using waste to generate electricity.


Flood risk management in the North East
The North East has seen significant flood events over recent years, damaging homes, communities and infrastructure. Reducing flood risk needs to be prioritised to ensure communities are sustainable and to minimise the disruption caused.


Long term integrated transport strategy
The North East needs to focus its attention on the strategic transport routes to and from the region in order to increase connectivity locally and nationally, with schemes driven by the region with one clear message. We need to invest in infrastructure which is vital to aid economic recovery.


Establish a new energy generation mix
The North East has a wonderful heritage in leading innovation in the field of power generation. In a time of significant change and driving towards a low carbon economy; we must take full advantage of our skills and capability in shaping that future.

Event Video

Video by great northern youth voices participants
Filming facilitated by Jackie Scollen

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Outcome and Discussion

The result of the initial ballot (held before the presentations and discussions) were as follows. Since there were five options (scoring 5 - 1 points if all options ranked) the scores given are out of 15 (5+4+3+2+1). Each option is also assigned a percentage of the potential maximum number of points that could be achieved in this vote. (100% if everyone who voted ranked that option first). There were 32 valid ballots. Option E (Establish a new energy generation mix) ranked highest with 4.0 points out of 15 (achieving 73% of its potential maximum), closely followed by D (Long term integrated transport strategy) with 3.7 points and B (Resource efficiency) with 3.4 points (68%, 64% of their potential maxima respectively). Option C (Flood risk management) scored 2.4 points (44%) and Option A (Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles) was far behind scoring 1.4 points (25% of its potential points).

Looking solely at which options ranked highest in the ballot, E came first with 31.3% of the top rankings, B and D both gained 28.1%, while C and A came much lower with 9.4% and 3.1% respectively.

In the course of the event the groups discussing options A and D decided to merge, and three new options emerged as worthy of prioritisation: working together / co-operation; housing: a place to live; and challenging the growth model through localism. Thus there were seven options in the final ballot, meaning that the final scores are given out of 28 (7+6+5+4+3+2+1). The results were as follows:

A + D

Long term integrated transport strategy incorporating charging infrastructure for electric vehicles
scored 4.2 out of 28, achieving 59% of its potential points in the final ranking.


Resource efficiency
scored 5.6 points (73% of potential), making it the highest ranked option.


Flood risk management
scored 3.8 (53% of potential)


Establish a new energy generation mix
scored 5.0 (71% of potential maximum), making it the second highest in the final ranking.


Working together /co-operation
scored 3.7 points (53% of potential maximum).


Housing: a place to live
scored 2.2 points (31% of potential maximum).


Challenging the growth model through localism
scored 3.5 points (50% of potential maximum).

The percentage of people who ranked each option highest in the final ballot were as follows: B and E came top, getting a top ranking on 25% of the ballot papers; H followed with 18.8%; options A+D, C and F were joint third with 9.4%; and G got 3.1%.

In summary, resource efficiency and the establishment of a new energy generation mix clearly came highest on our participants' list of infrastructure priorities according to a variety of different measures. Challenging the growth model through localism scored very highly with a significant percentage of participants, being ranked as highest priority by 19% of voters. A long term integrated transport strategy incorporating charging infrastructure for electric vehicles also did well, achieving a high ranking with many participants, but was only ranked highest by 9% of voters.

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Discussion points

The following bullet points came out of the group discussions during the event:

A Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles

  • battery technology needs improving
  • good idea in principle
  • lithium is scarce

B Resource efficiency

  • overarching to the other options
  • connectivity to improve efficiency
  • best use of what we have got
  • opportunity is the resource e.g. the empty seat on a train
  • rebalance between local, national and international
  • infrasturcture to connect the opportunities
  • change of philosophy
  • intellectual infrastructure
  • Resources are limited e.g. lithium

C Flood risk management

  • Flooding can be a risk to life
  • We need to invest as a nation as society will collapse without it - building block
  • The other infrastructural options being discussed are nice to have but more medium to long term issues
  • Flooding causes immediate disruption of other infrastructures - time lost
  • Development is halted without FRM, planning - for example in Morpeth no one will invest without flood defence implementation
  • Multiple benefits schemes
    • - catchment approaches
    • - prevention - opportunities for envirobment and economy

D Long term integrated transport strategy

  • Upgrades to existing network to ease economic growth
  • connections to HS Rail
  • cost of transport
  • export links
  • other options are a 'by-product' of holistic local transport strategy

E Establish a new energy generation mix

  • Global issues
  • national issues
  • but for the North east ...
  • long term sustainable jobs
  • innovation, knowledge and expertise globally marketable
  • NE cluster - R&D, design, manufacture

F Regional co-operation

  • Where does all the go go?
  • Working together
  • A new spirit?

H Reduced reliance on infrastucture

  • Do we need growth?
  • True sustainability requires us to use less of everything
  • We need to move towards Localism (food, transport)
  • resiliance (not relying on complex global supply network)

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Left to Right: Richard Coackley, Stephanie Henderson, Caspar Hewett,
Tony Quinn, Richard Dawson, Laura O'Toole, Edward Bentley

Edward Bentley
Edward Bentley is a researcher with the Power Engineering group at Northumbria University, and has been pursuing the question of the effects of Electric Vehicle charging on the Power Grid for several years. His research group recently completed a project for One North East to create an Excel-based tool to assess the impact of Electric Vehicle charging upon the low voltage distribution network. He is currently involved in a European Union project to promote Electric Vehicle usage in the countries surrounding the North Sea.

Edward says: "Given the finite nature of fossil fuel reserves, and the exponential growth in the rate of consumption, it is clear that petrol and oil will cease to be cheaply available at some point. Estimates vary, but some sources suggest that oil will cease to flow freely within 30/40 years. Given our present dependence on fossil fuel powered vehicles for mobility and distribution, the future will either hold a radical rearrangement of our transport arrangements or else a non-fossil-fuel-based system – the Electric Vehicle is one solution. To encourage the adoption of Electric Vehicles in a timely fashion, and incidentally to support the new Nissan battery plant in Sunderland, a charging infrastructure should be created in the region."

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Richard Dawson
Richard Dawson is Reader in School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University and is a Core Researcher in the Cities (now Resilience) programme at Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
He has developed an urban integrated assessment system facility that couples economic projections, land use change, climate impacts and emissions accounting tools. These tools were built by Richard and other researchers in the team. Richard is also the Partner Representative for the Tyndall Centre at the University of Newcastle.

Richard's research focuses on sustainable cities; work which started with his role as a researcher in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Cities Programme. Prior to this he was appointed as a researcher at Newcastle University in 2004, having previously worked at Bristol University where he also did his PhD. His research has focused on the analysis and management of risks in civil engineering and environmental systems. It is a cross-disciplinary endeavour, involving collaboration with leading researchers, consultants and government agencies nationally and internationally. A remarkable feature of his work has been its application at broad scales - recognition that engineering systems have a much wider influence than their physical form and need to be considered within their broader environmental and social context. This engineering philosophy has become known as Earth Systems Engineering and he is a founder member of the Centre for Earth Systems Engineering Research (CESER) at Newcastle University.

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Stephanie Henderson
Stephanie Henderson is a civil engineer in Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, joining in 2007 for a placement and returning in 2008 after completing her M.Eng in Civil Engineering at Durham University and is currently working towards Chartered Status. Her role in includes hydraulic and flood forecast modelling, project management and design of embankments, flood walls and trash screens. Recent projects have included writing a flood forecast for Morpeth and flood modelling projects in Durham and Darlington.

She joined the graduates and Students committee in 2007 while still at university and is now the Honorary Secretary of the committee and joined the ICE North East Flood Expert Panel in 2011. She has worked as the Schools and Colleges Liaison Rep for the committee, organising the Creative Construction Competitions in 2009 and 2010. Stephanie also volunteers in schools as an ICE Ambassador and is a CREST assessor for the British Science Association.

In her spare time, Stephanie is on the Board of Directors for the Star and Shadow Cinema, working as their Bar Steward and on their money team doing Companies House returns.

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Laura O’Toole is a member of the the Traffic and Transport team at Jacobs. She joined Jacobs in 2005 after completing a Masters degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and is currently working towards gaining Chartered status. Her role in the Traffic and Transport team includes traffic signal design, signing and lining schemes, junction design, traffic modelling, and transport assessments and travel planning. She has been seconded into client offices, and assists in a MEng/MSc module with Newcastle University. Recent projects include the junction design and route modelling for the New Wear Crossing in Sunderland, and Manchester Metrolink Airport extension.

Laura joined the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) North East Graduates and Students Committee in 2006, holding the position of Chairman from 2008 to early 2010. She joined the ICE NE Transport Panel in 2009, contributing to the National Transport Panel, local events and press releases. Laura presents at schools events both for Jacobs and for the ICE, and is keen to encourage young people into the profession.

Outside of work, Laura is an avid Scuba Diver and holds a PADI Advanced Open Water certificate, passing her exams in the North Sea in 2008. She has dived in several countries around the world, on reefs, in wrecks and in caves. She has dived with sharks, manta rays and turtles, and would love to dive with a whale shark in the future.

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Tony Quinn
National Renewable Energy Centre (narec)
Tony Quinn joined National Renewable Energy Centre (narec) in March 2010 as Director of Major Projects and Assets and has responsibility for delivering Narec’s £90m investment programme in both onshore and offshore test facilities. He is also responsible for business delivery within the existing blade test, marine and electrical test facilities.

Tony has held senior positions within Nexus (owner operator of Tyne and Wear Metro system) and PB Power as Asset Management Director and Project Director respectively. He has fulfilled the roles of client, consultant and contractor and has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of power generation from large fossil fuelled; gas fired combined cycle through to energy from waste plants. Tony specialises in project development and project delivery. Tony is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

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Engineers and academics debate future of regional infrastructure, Report in Bdaily Business Network
National Renewable Energy Centre (narec)
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research (Swan)
Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS)
Newcastle University
Durham University
Northumbria University
new economics foundation (nef)
Royal Academy of Engineering

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Devonshire Building

Devonshire Building

Devonshire Building

Location Map - Devonshire Building, Devonshire Terrace
Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne
[See also Newcastle University Campus map]

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