THREE areas in Dorset could become ‘investment zones’ under a new government scheme aimed at boosting development and growth.
Under the plan, firms based within the zones would benefit from zero business rates as well as relaxed planning rules to enable speedy delivery of homes and employment developments.
Dorset Council has submitted expressions of interest to the government covering three parts of the county – including one area in Purbeck.
The council wants investment zone status for a site in Wool, adjacent to the existing Dorset Innovation Park, pictured inset, where the aim is to build on the success there by offering further development opportunities for key sectors including advanced engineering and manufacturing.
The innovation park at Wool is currently home to around 36 firms, including Britlift and Qinetiq, with around 800 people working on the site.
The park is described by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership as ‘an advanced engineering cluster of excellence for the South West, building on its strengths in marine, defence, energy and cyber-security’.
The other two areas the council wants included are in Weymouth and Portland.
In Weymouth several regeneration sites around the waterside at Weymouth harbour and marina have been earmarked for homes and jobs, with opportunities for commercial and leisure developments.
And the port area in Portland offers opportunities for commercial and business operations, and a residential site in Castletown.
The government says investment zones are designed to ‘unlock housing across the UK by lowering taxes and liberalising planning frameworks to encourage rapid development and business investment’.
The zones offer lower taxes – including 100 per cent business rates relief – planning changes that minimise the need for planning applications, and wider support including cash settlements to enhance growth.
Councillor Tony Ferrari, portfolio holder for economic growth, assets and property at Dorset Council, said: “We welcome any opportunity to attract investment, improve infrastructure, and create jobs here in Dorset.”
The three proposed locations offer great potential for economic development and are suitable for this kind of activity.
“However, I should also say that we have received only limited detail so far from government about how Investment Zones will work.
“Our Expressions of Interest do not represent a commitment by government or by Dorset Council. We await further detail from government so we can assess the potential pros and cons of an Investment Zone before making any formal commitment following council processes.”
A total of 38 local authorities across the country have been approached to submit expressions of interest in creating Investment Zones, including Dorset and nearby Somerset County Council.
It is not yet known when the government will announce decisions on Expressions of Interest for Investment Zones.
The schemes were announced last month as part of former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s controversial mini-budget and their future remains unclear as changes to that statement are made.
More details are expected in the coming weeks.