With a significant focus currently on the impacts of Covid-19 and the regrowth of the economy once social distancing restrictions are lifted, it is no surprise that some of the smaller political issues have gone a little under the radar.
Welsh Assembly (or now, the Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament) elections are due next year (May 2021), and a recent poll (BBC annual 'St Davids' Day Poll') has suggested that Welsh Conservatives could make some significant inroads in Wales, alongside some gains for Plaid Cymru at the expense of Labour. The outcome could be a three way split of roughly equal numbers of seats for all three main Welsh parties.
The problem with this outcome arises through the fact that we would be very unlikely to see a political majority - or successful coalition to form a government. Plaid is unlikely to support Labour, and it would be all but politically impossible for Labour or Plaid to support the Tories.
This could result in a stand off and the Assembly may have to vote to dissolve itself and hold a fresh election.
What does this mean for planning, development and delivery of infrastructure?
As with any election period, developers will be seeking to avoid risks associated with lengthy delays in decision making, being caught up in political campaigning, and finding ways to deal with a new regime and changing political priorities.
Some comfort for renewables developers can be taken in the fact that all main political parties have the green agenda as a key priority, however there will undoubtedly be delays and tweaks as the successful party beds in, realigns the civil service and shapes political direction in relation to major infrastructure planning to fit with its own agenda.
What do developers need to do?
The current situation across the globe means that, understandably, those seeking to progress large scale development projects will have a focus on adapting to the new world of socially distanced communities, consultees and planning systems - not to mention funding and concerns related to the downturn in the global, national and regional economies.
However, ignoring the potential upcoming political upheaval in Wales could represent a growing risk to decision timelines for major infrastructure. Those working on major projects need to have a plan in place to address the potential that local key stakeholders and key Ministers at Welsh Government may change. It is sensible to factor in the potential for delays (on top of any remaining Covid-19 adaptations to the planning system that remain), and take steps to map out and understand the likelihood of seeing new Members of the Senedd in key positions, and at a local level.
The team at Thirty4/7 Communications is well versed in Welsh politics and the delivery of strategically important infrastructure projects. We can help you to manage risk during the pre-planning, planning and construction phases of significant schemes. Get in touch if you'd like to discuss how me may be able to assist further.