The Government’s New Investment Zones – our response
On 23rd September, the new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, set out the Government’s radical plans to boost growth. The airwaves have been full of debates ever since about tax cuts and who will benefit – and who won’t. However, one of the less headline grabbing measures announced was a consultation on the creation of new Investment Zones, one of which would be the county of Somerset. 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.
Responding to this 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.
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. You can support us by joining CPRE or making a donation.
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