Kwarteng to ‘liberalise planning rules’ with 38 new investment zones

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng outlined plans in this morning’s fiscal statement to “liberalise planning rules” within 38 new “investment zones” which will have eased planning restrictions and lower taxes.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

In the 2022 Growth Plan published by the Treasury alongside the fiscal statement, the government says the aim of the investment zones is to drive investment and employment, as well as helping people get on the property ladder.

The investment zones will be chosen in a “rapid expression of interest process open to everyone and after local consent is confirmed”, the document states.

READ MORE: The 38 areas where green rules could be relaxed as part of the government's investment zone plans

The government has said that the areas hosting the zones will benefit from:

  • Lower taxes – businesses in designated sites will benefit from 100% business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises, full stamp duty land tax relief on land bought for commercial or residential development and a zero rate for Employer National Insurance contributions on new employee earnings up to £50,270 per year.

  • Accelerated development – there will be designated development sites to both release more land for housing and commercial development, and to support accelerated development. 

  • Wider support for local growth – subject to demonstrating readiness, Mayoral Combined Authorities hosting investment zones will receive a single local growth settlement in the next Spending Review period.

Press reports have suggested that environmental rules – such as habitats regulations and nutrient neutrality requirements – could be overridden in the new zones. A fact sheet published today said that the government would set out “further detail on the liberalised planning offer for Investment Zones in due course”.

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, described the investment zones plans as ‘deeply worrying’ and said: “The chancellor is treating economic growth and environmental protection as mutually exclusive, but they’re not. It’s this tired thinking that is driving the energy, climate and ecological crises we’re facing. We really needed this budget to ease the cost of living emergency, restore nature and cut the emissions that cause climate change, but it totally fails on all counts.”

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.

READ MORE: Fiscal statement: New planning bill will minimise ‘burden’ of environmental assessment, says chancellor

The chancellor also set out plans for a new Planning and Infrastructure Bill to accelerate priority major infrastructure projects across England. The government said the new legislation is intended to minimise the “burden” of environmental assessment and to reform habitats and species regulation.

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