Government Investment Zones: Industrialisation of the Countryside


24th October 2022

In an attempt to drive growth, the government’s proposed Investment Zones will threaten many of our most loved landscapes, stripping away the protection of the planning system from swathes of the countryside. Oxfordshire County Council has confirmed it will not be pursuing Investment Zone status, see the statement below.

Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire:

“We welcome the County Council’s announcement.

CPRE is not an anti-growth organisation but nor do we believe in growth for growth’s sake.  The priority must be to improve the health and well-being of both people and our environment.   We believe this is best delivered through a strong, democratic planning system that responds to the needs and wishes of local people and robust environmental regulation.  Ripping up the rulebooks may make developers richer, but it won’t deliver affordable housing and sustainable communities or help our already depleted natural environment.”

Oxfordshire County Council statement explaining its position:

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.”

However, the City Council has responded with a statement of its own:

“It is regrettable that the County Council did not talk to the City and Districts before making this decision. There is a lot that needs clarifying in the Investment Zone programme and we would not countenance anything that watered down important minimum requirements on quality, environmental standards or affordable housing.

“However, we do need to be able to engage with government about investment in infrastructure support growth which is happening in Oxford and Oxfordshire. Therefore, I am writing to the Secretary of State to highlight that, despite Oxfordshire County Council pulling out unilaterally, we want to continue to engage with government on investment in infrastructure to support growth which is happening in Oxford and Oxfordshire.

“We are working closely with neighbouring authorities, including Cherwell, that also have mixed-use sites they were working on to put forward.”

And here is Cherwell’s even stronger response which makes it clear they are going to pursue the status:

Today’s decision by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) to decline to submit Expressions of Interest for Investment Zones in the county is both deeply disappointing and a missed opportunity to bring the right jobs and growth to Oxfordshire.

“Cherwell District Council (CDC) is very interested in submitting an Expression of Interest, as growth and investment are key priorities for the council, but under the formal process this has to be made via the county council, which will now not be possible. A great deal of work has gone in to preparing our submission, which makes today’s decision by OCC even more frustrating. How OCC can wait until today to make this bizarre decision is beyond me, especially when they knew how much work was going into CDC’s and other district councils’ submissions for this week’s deadline.“On hearing of OCC’s decision, I immediately wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities explaining that CDC does not agree at all with OCC’s position. We will be looking at alternative ways of expressing our interest in bringing Investment Zones to Cherwell. We believe in bringing the right jobs and economic growth to our district and will make every effort to do so despite today’s unhelpful and unnecessary decision.