Chancellor says proposal has potential to create ‘12 Canary Wharfs’

Combined authorities and devolved administrations proposing investment zones in their area must be able to show “a credible and ambitious” planning offer to accelerate development, the government has said.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today announced fresh plans for 12 investment zones which will benefit from tax breaks, clustered around research institutions such as universities. Their focus will be on growth in key areas as technology, creative industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the green sector as part of a drive which Hunt said could create “12 potential Canary Wharfs”.

The government has initially invited eight English combined authorities, each backed by £80m, to apply, with further areas set to be set up in the devolved administrations.


Source: Treasury/flickr

The chancellor said the proposed zones must be backed by quicker planning decisions to speed up development

An earlier version of the policy under the short-lived Liz Truss government, proposed streamlined planning rules.

However, the latest policy document published today said there would be no “top-down” solution on planning from the government.

Instead, it said areas proposing investment zones “should have a credible and ambitious planning offer to accelerate the development necessary to support the cluster while maintaining high environmental standards”.

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It added: “Places in England should look at proactive master-planning, bespoke engagement and support to applicants, and the use of Local Development Orders and other innovative routes to permission, where appropriate, to deliver exemplar development faster and to support the long-term success of the Zone.” It said there must be a single point of contact for investors on planning matters.

Hunt said: ”To be chosen, each area must identify a location where they can offer a bold and imaginative partnership between local government and a university or research institute in a way that catalyses new innovation clusters.

“If the application is successful, they will have access to £80m of support for a range of interventions including skills, infrastructure, tax reliefs and business rates retention.”

Aecom’s chief executive for Europe Colin Wood said: “Today’s commitment to 12 Investment Zones with a focus on research and innovation is a welcome start. Funding of £80m over five years will enable these zones to make some headway but the successful stimulation of business investment is critical.”

Today’s plan represents a scaling down of the investment zone idea from the Truss proposals for more than 200 zones announced in her mini-Budget last year.