Kingmoor Park Cumbria County Council c Google Earth

Kingmoor Park in Carlisle is one of the locations Cumbria County Council has put forward for investment zone status. Credit: Google Earth

North West councils submit investment zone bids

Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cumbria County Council, and Lancashire County Council have all thrown their hats into the ring for investment zone consideration.

Introduced by former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in The Growth Plan 2022, investment zones are one of the Truss government’s initiatives to stimulate the economy and encourage growth.

Councils were to submit an expression of interest for sites that the government should consider for investment zone status. These expressions of interest were due on Friday.

What are investment zones?

Investment zones will be areas that enjoy certain tax privileges and streamlined, flexible planning processes.

In its The Growth Plan 2022 factsheet on investment zones, the government describes the benefits as follows:

  • Lower taxes – businesses in designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits.
  • Accelerated development – there will be designated development sites to both release more land for housing and commercial development, and to support accelerated development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined. Development sites may be co-located with, or separate to, tax sites, depending on what makes most sense for the local economy.
  • 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.

Read Subplot’s take on investment zones

Cheshire West and Chester

Ellesmere Port is the focus of CWAC’s bid for an investment zone.

Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “We have focused on the Ellesmere Port industrial area, which is of major national and international significance. Investment zone status will create new opportunities to secure substantial additional funding to enable future growth…

She continued: “The investment zone proposition builds on extensive collaboration and previous investment in this area of the borough, including several sites within the existing enterprise zone. It is a coherent established cluster with many high skilled jobs and future investment opportunities. We are keen to ensure that everyone benefits from these opportunities, with good jobs and fair wages.

“Its role within transition to net zero and decarbonisation is also a fundamental reason for us putting this area forward.  This also provides an opportunity to support wider regeneration, including for the town centre of Ellesmere Port and other associated infrastructure.”

While clearly interested in having an investment zone, CWAC did say that it would not proceed with the programme if investment zone status meant a compromise on health and safety, workers’ rights, and environmental protections.

Cumbria County Council

Cumbria is in the middle of a change, with the county set to be divided into two councils next year: Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness.

Both areas have expressed an interest in an investment zone.

In Cumberland, the sites put forward are a plot of land at Oldside and Port of Workington, land at Kingmoor Park Enterprize Zone in Carlisle, and land at Leconfield Industrial Estate in Cleator Moor.

In Westmorland and Furness, the sites include Barrow Waterfront, Barrow Port, and Barrow Waterside – as well as land at GSK in Ulverston and land at Junction 41.

Like CWAC, Cumbria County Council issued a warning about a future investment zone.

Cllr Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “Whilst I support the aim of attracting investment to boost our local economy, I want to be clear that any development at the sites that are being explored needs to provide high-quality jobs and to be respectful of the environment. This is not about development at any cost.”

Lancashire County Council

Lancashire is proposing three interlinked strategic areas for investment zone status. The council described them as:

  • The North-South Enterprise Corridor would span from as far north as Heysham, through central Lancashire and down into West Lancashire.
  • The East Lancashire Enterprise Corridor would cover sites from Samlesbury and across into Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle.
  • The Fylde Coast Enterprise Corridor would cover areas across the Fylde, Wyre, and Blackpool coast.

Cllr Phillippa Williamson, leader of the Lancashire County Council said: “There is massive potential across Lancashire and we are ready to move at pace using our existing development pipeline as well as new, ambitious opportunities including those aligned to the development of our historic new ‘Lancashire 2050’ strategy.”

Is there a downside to an investment zone?

While CWAC, Cumbria County Council, and Lancashire County Council have proven to be keen on the idea, other councils have opted out of investment zone consideration.

Down South, Oxfordshire County Council said it would not pursue investment zone status. The council wrote: “We consider that the de-regularisation of planning controls and reductions in environmental protection, which appear to be a condition of any investment zone, are incompatible with our net zero carbon aspirations and our commitment to protect and enhance biodiversity and environmental quality”.

The council also added that it had a robust economy that did not need an investment zone to enhance it.

Your Comments

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Typical Lancashire County Council. 3 zones !! No chance they just can’t prioritise…..they are to big , to cumbersome and badly run . Sooner they are abolished an unitary local government is established across Lancashire the better . Lancashire is losing out cos the county can’t get its act together on anything. The rest of the north has moved onto combined authorities and unitary local government. Political self interest is preventing this move and the 3 investment zones are just the latest example of the counties failure

By George

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