Chancellor set to ease planning rules in ‘mini-budget’ announcement

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to introduce zones with eased planning restrictions for commercial and industrial development and housing in an emergency budget on Friday.

The announcement, officially known as the fiscal statement, will be the chancellor’s first address to MPs on the economy since being given the role. As part of the announcement, planning regulations, and subsequently environmental protections, are expected to be loosened in up to 12 places, according to several reports in national media.

The aim, according to the government, is to encourage industrial, commercial and residential development, streamlining the process for new housing. 

These areas, described as ‘investment zones’, would also see tax lowered for businesses and potentially residents. The West Midlands, Thames estuary, Tees Valley, West Yorkshire, and Norfolk are likely to be among the zones announced, according to reports.

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Although these first announcements are set to pertain to England only, the government is also expected to work with the devolved governments to introduce investment zones across the UK, according to reports.

The new deregulation measures are expected to go beyond Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit freeport plans, according to the Guardian, which included the establishment of up to ten areas where planning regulations and tax would be eased. The freeport boundaries caused alarm, as the maps published by HMRC showed a number of national parks and AONBs were included.

On the topic of deregulating planning ahead of the announcement, Martin Slater, deputy chief executive for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust told ENDS; “Strong and effective planning regulation is key to ensuring nature is protected and allowed to flourish, and weakening this could lead to a significant deterioration in the quality of developments for both Yorkshire’s wildlife and people.

“It’s frustrating to see the belief that economic development needs separating from the value of nature. We need nature and a healthy environment at the heart of a sustainable, green economy, which will create more jobs, ensure that land is properly managed for the long-term, enable people to live happier, healthier lives, and restore our much-depleted natural world.

"We know that people want to live and work in attractive, nature-rich places that have good green infrastructure which works with nature in response to the changing climate.”

Defra declined to comment and told ENDS they are 'unable to speculate on any future announcements'.

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The creation of these low-regulation investment zones was promised by Truss in her leadership race, along with tax cuts. The Friday announcement, dubbed as a ‘mini-budget’, is part of a package that will put a stop to the rise in national insurance contributions, reverse plans to increase corporation tax, and scrap the bankers’ bonus cap which was introduced in 2014.

The mini-budget follows the government’s announcement earlier this month of an energy support package, which included a £150 billion energy cap to help with the cost of rising bills and plans to lift the moratorium on fracking.

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