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The Government's New Investment Zones

The Government's New Investment Zones Clem Onojeghuo / Unsplash

29th September 2022

On 23rd September, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng set out major plans to grow the UK economy by, among other measures, creating a range of ‘investment zones’ whereby regulations and processes would be sped up or watered down to ensure fast-tracked development.

Dorset is one of the counties identified as an investment zone. The fear is that this will strip away the protection of the planning system from swathes of the countryside and threaten many of our most loved landscapes. The draft Dorset Council Local Plan, consulted on in the Spring of 2021, is going out-of-date. It made no reference to Investment Zones. Also the Local Development Scheme, to be discussed at Dorset Council Cabinet meeting on 4th October, makes no reference to Investment Zones.

Responding to the Chancellor's announcement, Tom Fyans, CPRE’s Interim CEO, said: ‘This government’s obsession with driving growth at all costs is alarming and will not end well for the countryside or our rural communities. Investment zones are deregulation on steroids. Successive governments have already severely weakened planning controls and the outcome has been a decade of disastrous design. CPRE’s own research in 2020 revealed that 75% of all new homes were mediocre or poor quality.

There’s a massive shortage of genuinely affordable homes in England – if the government wants to help increase development, then it must be the sorts of homes that people actually need. These new zones will be a failure if they simply allow housebuilders to build more large expensive properties that rather than the homes local people need.

By weakening the Habitats Directive, the government is kicking away the key foundation of its own 30 by 30 pledge and it will critically undermine any meaningful attempt to tackle the nature emergency.

This government is presenting a false choice between being green and boosting economic growth. Last week’s “fiscal event” should have been an opportunity to invest in the energy efficiency of our homes. The best possible way to tackle the dual energy and cost of living crisis, while kickstarting the economy, is to retrofit our leaky homes.

If these plans go ahead, developers will be given free rein to industrialise our countryside, changing the face of rural England for generations to come. We cannot allow the wildlife and landscapes that make our country so special to be robbed from us, our children or our grandchildren. We need to act fast to force the government to change direction.

‘The chancellor’s plan to use deregulation to hand power to developers is the exact opposite of what the countryside needs’

If ministers want to see booming high streets and more money in people’s pockets, we need to see investment in genuinely affordable homes and thriving communities, not trying to bypass the democratic planning system so that developers can cut down our woods and pour concrete over our fields.

We will throw everything we can at this campaign and ensure that as many MPs as possible hear the message loud and clear: industrialising the countryside is no answer to the challenges we face.

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