Investment Zones plans for West Midlands welcomed by local government despite fears for nature

Three areas in the West Midlands have been identified as potential Investment Zones while six regional transport plans could be fast tracked
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The West Midlands Combined Authority has revealed that the Government wants to work with them to create Investment Zones in the region.

The Chancellor said the Government was in discussion with 38 local and mayor combined authorities, including the West Midlands, on Investment Zones in specific sites within their area.

The WMCA says this will help to drive economic growth, new homes, and jobs. But conservationists have claimed they are an attack on nature because they will require more land to be used for commercial projects and housing.

The WMCA and partners are also intending to submit additional Investment Zone proposals including in East Birmingham.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng also revealed that the Government plans to fast-track a number of vital transport schemes in the region to ensure work gets underway before the end of 2023.

Where would the West Midlands Investment Zones be placed?

WMCA said the announcement pointed to potential Investment Zones at:

  • The HS2 Interchange site near Birmingham Airport and the NEC
  • Sites in the Black Country
  • The site of a proposed Gigafactory at Coventry Airport, producing electric vehicle batteries

The WMCA and partners are also intending to submit additional Investment Zone proposals including in East Birmingham.

Speaking in the House of Commons the Chancellor said the Investment Zones would offer generous, targeted and time-limited tax cuts for businesses, backing them to increase productivity and create new jobs.

These areas would also benefit from further liberalised planning rules to release more land for housing and commercial development, and reforms to increase the speed of delivering development.

The WMCA has been asked by Government to lead and co-ordinate the setting up of zones in the region and the combined authority will now work closely with local councils and other partners to co-ordinate a regional response setting out proposed locations and specific projects within them.

Work is already well underway on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill tram extension - one of several transport projects the Government has signalled for fast trackingWork is already well underway on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill tram extension - one of several transport projects the Government has signalled for fast tracking
Work is already well underway on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill tram extension - one of several transport projects the Government has signalled for fast tracking

What has the West Midlands Mayor and WMCA said about these plans?

Both moves have been welcomed by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and the WMCA.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The Government has shown real ambition for growth and a clear commitment to the West Midlands – putting our region at the front of the queue for investment and project delivery here on the ground.

“In particular, the announcement that they will back us by creating dedicated Investment Zones – with a number of very promising potential local sites already highlighted – is great news and will result in local residents and businesses benefitting from lower taxes, faster development and improved economic prospects in the weeks, months and years ahead.”

Why is there opposition to these investment zones proposals?

But conservationists have claimed that these Investment Zones are an attack on nature which could roll back environmental rules.

The announcement of the new areas by the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, where planning rules will be loosened to release more land for commercial use and housing, will act as a “carte blanche” for development, leading conservation charities warned, and represent an “unprecedented attack on nature”.

“Make no mistake, we are angry. This government has today launched an attack on nature,” the RSPB tweeted. “As of today, from Cornwall to Cumbria, Norfolk to Nottingham, wildlife is facing one of the greatest threats it’s faced in decades.”

The proposed Gigafactory site at Coventry Airport is one location being considered as a potential Investment ZoneThe proposed Gigafactory site at Coventry Airport is one location being considered as a potential Investment Zone
The proposed Gigafactory site at Coventry Airport is one location being considered as a potential Investment Zone

What West Midlands transport plans have been flagged for fast-tracking?

The WMCA said the Government signalled its intention to accelerate delivery of key transport schemes in the region including:

  • Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro tram extension
  • Phase 2 of the Sprint rapid bus network
  • Aldridge railway station
  • The East Birmingham to Solihull corridor
  • Walking, cycling and bus connections for the new Darlaston and Willenhall rail stations
  • Bus priority measures on cross-city routes

What have local politicians said about these transport schemes being accelerated?

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We have received a tremendous vote of confidence in our infrastructure plans with the exciting news that a number of vital regional transport projects will be fast tracked – so we can expect diggers in the ground on the majority of them by the end of 2023. I cannot wait to see local lives changed for the better and I look forward to working with the Government to get this done.”

Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, added: “Improvements to the rail, tram, cycling and walking network are vital if we are going to reduce private car use, improve our air quality and meet our net-zero carbon targets.

"So, we welcome the decision to accelerate key projects across the West Midlands, including more cross-city bus routes, the Metro extension to Brierley Hill and the development of sustainable transport networks along the East Birmingham and North Solihull corridor."

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