‘Rapid process’ to assess applications to follow two-week application window

Upper-tier local authorities can now lodge an expression of interest in hosting Liz Truss’ investment zones, which are aimed at boosting development through reduced regulation and simplified planning.

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities yesterday opened the bidding process for the zones, announced in last month’s mini-budget. Mayoral combined authorities, upper-tier councils and freeports have less than a fortnight – until 14 October – to express an interest for their sites.

The zones will operate under a simplified planning process, reduced taxation and lower regulations and are intended to stimulate or speed up development of residential and commercial sites.

Guidance published by DLUHC yesterday said bids will be assessed by criteria based on ‘economic opportunity, pace of delivery and wider strategic alignment’. The guidance sets out a series of questions that authorities will need to answer and information they must supply.

As previously reported, housing investment zone sites can already have outline planning permission.

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It said residential sites will ‘need to demonstrate housing impact through acceleration or additionality’, whereas commercial sites will need to show the zone will “drive development of at present undeveloped land and/or fulfilment of growth potential.”

Authorities would also have to commit to mitigating environmental impacts of all investment zone sites.

Authorities have until 14 October to submit an expression of interest. DLUHC said it will then work with authorities on their delivery plans, and confirm sites represent value for money and deliver housing and growth objectives.

The government said it has already spoken to 38 authorities who are potentially interested in hosting an investment zone.

DLUHC has produced a list of ‘illustrative sites of sites that could become housing zones (see box below).

The investment zone plan has drawn criticism from some in the industry who argue planning reforms should be applied everywhere, while commentators have also raised questions about additionality, pointing out that many of the zones will already have the principle of development established. 

DLUHC’s ’illustrative examples’ of sites that could become zones

1. Blackpool Airport

2. Blackpool Town Centre

3. Langarth Garden Village, Cornwall

4. Newquay Airport, Cornwall

5. Falmouth Docks, Cornwall

6. Ellesmere Port Industrial Area, Cheshire West & Chester

7. HS2 Interchange, Solihull

8. the site of a proposed battery Gigafactory at Coventry Airport

9. sites in the Black Country

10. sites in Barrow-in-Furness

11. Workington and the Energy Coast, Cumbria

12. sites near Weymouth, Dorset

13. the proposed Mayoral Development Corporation site in Hartlepool

14. the proposed Mayoral Development Corporation site in Middlesbrough

15. Teesside International Airport

16. Ebbsfleet Central

17. the River Hull corridor

18. Charnwood Campus in Leicestershire

19. Plymouth City Centre and Waterfront

20. Ceramic Valley in Stoke-on-Trent

21. Gravity, Somerset

22. Riverside, Sunderland

23. the Northern Spire, Sunderland

24. the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, Sunderland