With the sweeping spending cuts and tax rises set out within the Autumn Statement, the fate of unlimited ‘Investment Zones’ (IZs) has been sealed. Just 56 days after the ill-fated ‘Growth Plan’ it seems that the ambitions unveiled under the (very brief) Truss Government cannot now be justified under the “new” Sunak Government.
The Autumn Statement has confirmed that IZs will now be more focused, seeking to “catalyse a limited number of the highest potential knowledge-intensive growth clusters”, including through leveraging “local research strengths”.
The shift will see the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHUC) work closely with Mayors, devolved administrations, local authorities, businesses and other local partners to consider how best to identify and support these clusters; driving growth while maintaining high environmental standards. It means that many local authorities who took time to prepare and submit Expressions of Interest in double-quick time only a few weeks ago will be disappointed. It is anticipated that the first clusters will be announced in the coming months.
LSH will keep you updated as more information is released, but the key questions to be addressed in the meantime will include:
- where will the ‘limited number of the highest potential knowledge-intensive growth clusters’ be located?;
- how will the target growth agenda come to the fore?; and
- will the ‘identified knowledge-intensive clusters’ see any tangible benefits?
What are the other key takeaways from today’s Autumn Statement?
- A continued commitment to Levelling Up. Including delivering the Levelling Up White Paper by early 2023, and confirmation that the 2nd Round of the Levelling Up Fund will allocate at least £1.7 billion to priority local infrastructure projects. The announcement of successful bids is anticipated before the end of the year.
- The commitment to sign new ‘trailblazer’ devolution deals with Greater Manchester and the West Midlands Combined Authorities, and a further commitment to agree devolution deals with all areas in England that want one by 2030.
- Investment in high quality infrastructure, with a commitment to accelerate delivery of projects across the infrastructure portfolio. The Chancellor has confirmed the government’s continued commitment to the growth plans for our railways – including East-West Rail; core Northern Powerhouse Rail; and High Speed 2 to Manchester.
- Updates to National Policy Statements for transport, energy and water resources can be expected throughout 2023 in order to ensure that all infrastructure is delivered quickly through reforms to the planning system.
- The continued commitment to reduce emissions, decarbonise the power system by 2035 (subject to security of supply), and reach net zero by 2050. Nuclear, Wind and Solar are highlighted as key to delivering the UK’s energy security.
However, we are still waiting for news on the scope and extent of planning reforms, including the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework Prospectus which we were promised in the Summer.
LSH will continue to keep you updated as more information emerges on the Government’s commitment to Levelling Up, “reinvited” IZs and planning reforms.
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