County council explains decision to decline the government’s investment zones invite

Oxfordshire County Council has written to government minsters to explain why it has decided the county should not bid to be involved in Whitehall’s investment zones initiative, which involves creating targeted areas where planning regulations would be relaxed in an attempt to drive growth.

Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, has written a formal letter to Simon Clarke, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, to explain why it was thought this was not the right move for Oxfordshire.

She said: “We have thanked the government for inviting Oxfordshire to bid for investment zone status. We have decided not to progress this opportunity. Oxfordshire continues to support many very exciting business developments, particularly in the areas of science and technology, so in writing a letter to government I wanted to explain the logic behind why we feel that applying for an investment zone does not fit with our ambitions.

 “We consider that the de-regularisation of planning controls and reductions in environmental protection, which appear to be a condition of any investment zone, are incompatible with our net zero carbon aspirations and our commitment to protect and enhance biodiversity and environmental quality, as stated in our vision.

“Oxfordshire already has a successful and growing local economy built on the strengths of its world leading universities, science and technology base and locational advantages. We continue to support the creation of a high skill, high wage economy, which contributes significantly to the competitiveness of the UK, and we are proud that many of the UK’s leading research and innovation institutions are located here. We do not believe that an investment zone is needed to enhance this.

“Investment zones are better suited to large urban areas with substantial brown-field sites or former industrial areas, which are seeking much needed investment. We are very supportive of the intention to distribute economic advantage across the country and we will be happy to play whatever part we can in advancing this.

“In our letter to the secretary of state, we reiterate our call on government to provide support for infrastructure to support housebuilding. We remain committed to enabling the high levels of housebuilding that have been committed to within existing local plans, and as part of the government’s growth deal, to support our high performing economy. To do this, we need to focus on infrastructure, particularly promoting active travel and public transport and high environmental standards, which will contribute to the nation’s net zero carbon targets and protect the environment that we all rely on to survive.

“Any support government is able to provide to help us achieve balanced communities, with good infrastructure and decent environmental standards, would be welcome.”