James Heath is currently director of digital infrastructure at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). He takes over at the National Infrastructure Commission in May 2020.
His appointment follows the departure of Philip Graham last month, who had been chief executive since the commission was set up in October 2015. Mr Graham now works for the Greater London Authority as ‘executive director for good growth’, in charge of transport, infrastructure, planning, economic development and environmental policy.
James Heath’s experience of infrastructure comes from his work at DCMS leading the future telecoms infrastructure review and the telecoms supply chain review. He had overall responsibility for broadband, mobile and telecoms security policy, and the Government’s 5G Trials & Testbed Programme.
Before joining DCMS in 2017, he was director of policy at the BBC.
Until Mr Heath moves to the NIC, its chief economist James Richardson is acting chief executive.
Financial secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: “The commission plays a key role in supporting the development of effective long term public infrastructure. I have no doubt James will be an excellent CEO, and I look forward to working closely with him.”
The new chief executive will lead the commission’s secretariat of around 40 staff at a what is described as a pivotal time for the organisation. The government is due to publish its National Infrastructure Strategy shortly, as a formal response to the commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment published in July 2018. Following publication of the Oakervee review of High Speed 2, the government has asked the commission to form a view on a new integrated rail plan for the north and midlands.
James Heath said: “Infrastructure has shot to the top of the political agenda and this role offers an unparalleled opportunity to advise government on how to ensure future investment will deliver lasting benefits to communities across the UK. I will be joining a talented team and supporting a group of commissioners whose expertise offers huge value in shaping a strategic approach to infrastructure policy.”