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‘I am at a loss to understand why SDC has turned down a government investment zone’ – Ian Mean


By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director

I am at a loss to understand why Stroud District Council has failed to realise the economic potential to the area by turning down a government investment zone proposal.

Gloucestershire County Council had proposed one of the four potential investment zone sites for the county could be at Berkeley.

It would have been on a 65-acre site around the former nuclear power station there.

To me the potential this posed for jobs and growth should not have been ignored.

After all, the county council, were simply responding to government who wanted “expressions of interest” to the idea of a investment zone there.

These zones in the government’s Plan for Growth are designed “to drive growth and unlock housing across the UK by lowering taxes and liberalising planning frameworks to encourage rapid development and business investment”.

Each of these investment zones will include a “tax site” giving favourable tax incentives to business and a “development site” which will focus on accelerating building houses and other developments.

To me, one of the key benefits of the zone plans envisaged by the government is the cutting back of what can often be unnecessary bureaucratic requirements, processes and red tape that slow down development.

In a nutshell, that really revolves around planning and its complexities.

Planning-and the lack of a strategic plan for Gloucestershire-has often bedevilled economic development in our county.

I fully understand the initial concern of Stroud District Council that the relaxation of planning rules as part of the investment zones might lead to a loss of local control over planning and environmental protection.

But surely with so much at stake in terms of benefits to the local economy, the council should have  stuck to what the government was asking.

Simply to express an interest. That is not a Yes or a No.

What message does this send to the government?

The Fusion bid for a prototype plant at Berkeley and Oldbury has been lost and we need to ensure all that work is not wasted.

Stroud’s MP Siobhan Baillie is asking ministers what other projects could take the place of our fusion work.

Politics must not govern decisions like this, and plainly this is what has happened.

Stroud should think again.

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