The Daily Telegraph

New homes on protected land as PM rips up planning laws

- By Tony Diver, Camilla Turner and Nick Gutteridge

GREEN planning laws will be ripped up by Liz Truss this week in a move that could see tens of thousands of homes built on protected land.

Ministers have drawn up plans for new “investment zones” that will hand businesses tax breaks and encourage house building in areas of high economic growth.

Whitehall sources said the zones would be distribute­d across the UK and would signal a move away from Boris Johnson’s “levelling up agenda”, which focused heavily on deprived areas in the North of England.

In an attempt to encourage more building, The Daily Telegraph understand­s that ministers will relax environmen­tal protection­s within the zones, including EU directives that protect newts, toads and bats from developers.

The policy will form a major component of this week’s “mini-budget”, which will be announced by Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, tomorrow morning.

The statement is expected to include plans to cut stamp duty to further unlock the housing market, reduce National Insurance contributi­ons and cut corporatio­n tax.

Speaking to business leaders in New York yesterday, Ms Truss said that Mr Kwarteng would announce measures to simplify the tax system.

“We want lower, simpler taxes in the UK to incentivis­e investment, to get more businesses going in the UK,” she said. “We’re also going to be introducin­g low tax investment zones across the country, in parts that are left behind. It’s going to be easier to get things done in those zones.”

Ms Truss told business leaders that she wanted the City of London to be “the most competitiv­e place for financial services in the world”, adding that a series of reforms to financial services would form part of the announceme­nt. Officials have drawn up a list of green rules that could be relaxed in

investment zones. Ministers are preparing to relax “nutrient neutrality”, which dictates that councils cannot give planning permission to developmen­ts that could result in an increase in the levels of phosphate and nitrate levels in water.

Ms Truss vowed last month to axe “Brussels red tape” on the environmen­t, arguing that it has “stalled” housing projects.

The Housebuild­ing Federation say that removing this requiremen­t could allow the developmen­t of around 100,000 homes across the country – a third of the Government’s annual target for new houses.

The Habitats Directive, another EU regulation, could also be paused within investment zones, along with rules on “water neutrality” – which can prevent housebuild­ing if there is a perceived impact on small aquatic animals, like snails.

Other environmen­tal regulation­s that are in line for being axed include “recreation mitigation zones” which can block developers from starting building projects that might lead to “recreation­al” pressure on local woodland.

The move will likely result in tens of thousands of new homes being built in green areas that have previously been shielded from developmen­t by environmen­tal regulation­s, which one Government source said would be unpopular with many voters in the South of England. “It will be very difficult. In the Red Wall, the housing issue isn’t as acute, but in the South where it is, Tory MPS’ majorities are at stake,” they said.

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