The Government has today revealed it wants to work with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to create Investment Zones in the West Midlands, which will help drive economic growth, new homes, and jobs.
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.
Both moves have been welcomed by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and the WMCA.
In announcing his Growth Plan, which included energy price caps for both domestic households and businesses, the Chancellor said the Government was in discussion with 38 local and mayoral combined authorities, including the West Midlands, on Investment Zones in specific sites within their area. And 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. The Government signalled its intention to also 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
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.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The Government today 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.
“We have also received a tremendous vote of confidence today 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.”
Councillor Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for land and housing and leader of Walsall Council, added: “We expect this to be just the start of what will be a suite of Investment Zones across the West Midlands with a huge focus on attracting substantial new private sector investment. These zones will build upon and reflect our £15bn Investment Prospectus published earlier this year by providing a supportive and business minded planning environment that accelerates decision making, unlocks barriers and provides investor certainty to drive new homes, jobs and transport for local people.”
WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward, 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."