Areas of Weymouth, Portland and Wool have been put forward by Dorset Council as potential investment zones.
The council has submitted three expressions of interest to the Government.
It says it has identified several regeneration sites in Weymouth around the waterside at Weymouth harbour and marina. The proposal is to redevelop disused and under-developed sites to provide homes and jobs, with opportunities for commercial and leisure developments.
The port area of Portland has been submitted, with the council saying it offers opportunities for commercial and business operations, and a residential site in Castletown.
It stressed that the proposed location for an incinerator at Portland Port, currently going through the planning process, is ‘explicitly excluded’ from the expression of interest, adding: “The decision on the incinerator is subject to the independent planning process and will be unaffected by any proposal for an Investment Zone.”
In Wool, a site adjacent to the existing Dorset Innovation Park has been put forward to ‘build on the success there’ by offering ‘further investment and development opportunities’ for key sectors including advanced engineering and manufacturing.
Investment zones come with tax breaks for potential investors and what the Government claims will be ‘simplified, reduced regulation and planning processes. The aim is to attract new investment to create jobs.
It is not yet known when the Government will announce decisions on expressions of interest for investment zones.
Cllr Tony Ferrari, portfolio holder for economic growth, assets and property at Dorset Council, said: “We have submitted three strong expressions of interest for possible Investment Zones. We welcome any opportunity to attract investment, improve infrastructure, and create jobs here in Dorset. The three proposed locations offer great potential for economic development and are suitable for this kind of activity.
“However, I should also say that we have received only limited detail so far from government about how Investment Zones will work. Our expressions of interest do not represent a commitment by government or by Dorset Council. We await further detail from government so we can assess the potential pros and cons of an investment zone before making any formal commitment following council processes.”
We were among authorities invited by the Government to submit a proposal. The Government has said that investment zones would release land for commercial or residential development. Within those sites developments will adhere to liberalised planning regulations and businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives.
Leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “We are at a very early stage in the process, but this could be an exciting and welcome initiative that would enable us to work with the Government to deliver benefits for the North Yorkshire economy.
“Following discussions with our district council colleagues, we are submitting an expression of interest. This identifies a number of sites across the county that we feel fit the criteria from Government. We look forward to further negotiations with Government following our submission.”
The sites identified in the expression of interest are:
- Hambleton: Dalton, at Junction 49 on the A1
- Harrogate: Harrogate, at Junction 47 of the A1; Potter Space Ripon, at Junction 50 of the A1; Harrogate Convention Centre
- Richmondshire: the area around A1 Junctions 52 and 53
- Ryedale: Eden Camp East, Malton
- Scarborough: Scarborough Business Park
- Selby: Gascoigne Wood Rail Interchange, Olympia Park, and sites at Eggborough, Kellingley and Sherburn
These are all commercial sites.
Cllr Les said: “The sites we are putting forward for consideration are locations that have already been earmarked for commercial development to support business growth and job creation. The proposed benefits of investment zones could help to make these sites even more attractive to new businesses and accelerate development ambitions.
“We are fully aware of the need to minimise any environmental impacts, so all the sites we are putting forward have been selected in accordance with local planning and conservation policy. None are sensitive or protected sites.”
Proposed sites must meet the Government’s criteria to offer a significant economic opportunity, be ready to deliver quickly and align with the wider local strategy.
Once the Government has received the expressions of interest from invited authorities, further criteria will influence site selection, including consideration of the overall geographic distribution of investment zones, the balance between residential and commercial, and urban and rural sites and the readiness to deliver.
Thanet council will make an expression of interest to have three new investment zones on the isle.
Thanet District Council has been working with Kent County Council, government officials and stakeholders to develop expressions of interest for the Port of Ramsgate, sites across Manston including Manston Airport, MoD site and Mountpark and for Dreamland/Arlington.
In September Kent was named as one of 38 areas earmarked as an investment zone in the now sacked Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget.
One of the aims is for accelerated development, meaning there will be designated development sites for housing and commercial development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined.
Businesses in the designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits such as 100% business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises, and full stamp duty tax relief on land bought for commercial and residential development. Accelerated development will also mean more land for residential and commercial development,.
According to the government, Investment Zones will be “designated sites where businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives and streamlined planning rules to deliver investment, create jobs and build the homes that communities need”.
Kent County Council as the Upper Tier Authority for Thanet will be responsible for submitting an application to central Government, including the expressions of interest from the district councils within the county.
Potential Thanet sites
Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee has approved the in principle expressions of interest at the Thanet sites.
The Port is owned and operated by the council but Manston airport and Dreamland are privately owned.
A decision notice published on TDC’s website says: “If any of the expressions of interest in Thanet are successful, this does not mean that there is approval for an Investment Zone.
“There will be subsequent decision gateways and development phase to put together a delivery plan. The delivery plan is required to ensure that the Investment Zone meets the strategic, delivery and legal expectations set by central government.
“These delivery plans will need to confirm that sites will represent value for money for taxpayers and deliver the growth objectives set out through the Investment Zones programme. At this stage it is not clear how this process will be managed, the timescales linked to this, and what central government’s guidance is for the next process.”
Ramsgate Port is also included for regeneration and development under the £19.8million Levelling Up Fund.
Dreamland has a £4million allocation from the Margate Town Deal fund to be used towards the renovation and reopening the cinema building which has been empty for more than a decade.
The site will be turned into an entertainment and conference centre with space allocated to community use – understood to be the People Dem Collective group which headed up Black Lives Matter demos last year – and charities.
The allocation caused controversy with some questioning why the privately owned business is receiving public funds. The Dreamland estate was sold by Thanet council to park operator Sands Heritage Ltd in 2020 for £7million – £2.3 million for the Dreamland estate and £4.7million to buy the car park area which was finally handed over this month.
The bulk of Manston airport is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners which currently has an approved development consent order from government to create an air freight hub at the site. RSP paid £16.5 million to buy the airport site from former owners Stone Hill Park in 2019.
The expression of interest decision has been made under ‘urgency procedures’ and is exempted from call-in.
Thanet council says this is because of “ timescales set-out by central government between the announcement about Investment Zones, releasing the guidance and the deadline for submission means that Thanet District Council has been unable to move through the formal decision making process.
“This would normally include a Cabinet Decision and time for call-in from Scrutiny. Following the guidance there was only two weeks in which to develop the expressions of interest before the submission deadline. These are in-principle expressions of interest that will require further development if successful, and therefore will follow due process.”
Thanet Green Party councillor Mike Garner said he is extremely concerned at the investment zone proposals.
He said: “I am extremely concerned that these three areas of Thanet have been nominated as Investment Zones without the council having any clear idea of what that means for those areas.
“ A number of organisations like the RSPB and CPRE have already highlighted that any further weakening of planning regulations is likely to lead to further harm to the environment and can be seen as an attack on nature.
“I agree with them and believe that we should be working harder to deliver the affordable housing and new job opportunities needed within a framework that protects and enhances our environment rather than ceding control of large areas of the district to developers who are looking to make money ‘at any cost’.”
Thanet Labour Party leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “It is right that the council takes opportunities to support regeneration, but the government has rushed this policy out and there is insufficient clarity about what they involve. Cllr Ashbee referred to the benefit of business rates from a reopened airport at council last night – is the council now willing to forfeit them?”
Part of south Devon has asked to be considered for becoming a government-backed investment zone.
South Hams District Council agreed to submit an expression of interest for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport to become one.
The zones give lower tax rates for businesses, and relaxed planning regulations for new developments.
The aim is to gain economic incentives for the Sherford, Langage and South Yard sites in the Freeport project.
The move was only narrowly agreed by councillors after many said there was too little information to give it the go ahead, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
Investment Zones were announced by the then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in September’s mini-budget and aim to provide designated development sites that will release more land for housing and commercial development, and support accelerated development.
At the South Hams Special Council meeting on Thursday, council leader, Judy Pearce said: “It will deliver the seed capital grant from government of £25m for essential infrastructure.
“It will include £29m of investment from local councils that will be paid back by the business rates that go back into the sites.
“It will support a new £30m innovation centre at Oceansgate.
“It will deliver 3,500 jobs and will enhance available business benefits and incentives over a longer time period.”