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City centre could become investment zone

23 September 2022

Plymouth’s city centre could be made an investment zone by the Government, unlocking millions of pounds of investment for much-needed housing and business growth.

Plymouth is one of 38 authorities invited to work in partnership with the Government to create an investment zone to attract investment and unleash growth.

Details of what Plymouth’s investment zone could entail will be part of a business plan that will be submitted to Government but is expected to include interventions designed to speed up the delivery of proposed housing, retail and mixed use development. Interventions could include:

• Lower taxes – businesses in designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits

• Accelerated development – with designated development sites to release more land for housing and commercial development and to support accelerated development. The planning process could also be radically streamlined. Development sites may be co-located with, or separate to, tax sites, depending on what makes most sense for the local economy.

• Wider support for local growth – for example, through greater control over local growth funding for areas

Richard Bingley, Plymouth City Council Leader said: "This is a massive opportunity to increase household income, business creation and quality urban home building in our Ocean City.

"Like many other cities, our city centre has suffered from dramatic shifts in shopping habits, with huge High Street names disappearing for ever. We have recognised for some time that the city centre needs to change, to be a place where many more people live and to enjoy leisure time there as well as eat and shop. 

“But attracting the necessary investment, particularly in these challenging times, is a real barrier for the city. This announcement could catapult our ambitions to revive the city centre as well as enable much-needed housing to be built. We also know we have huge unrealised potential for high value jobs in our waterfront and ports.

"The fact that Plymouth has been selected as a first wave of investment zones is a testament to our administration's laser-sharp focus on higher-value job creation schemes. We've relentlessly lobbied Government for more funding, more local freedoms, and for tax burdens across the piece to fall.

"This proposed transformation also makes concrete our pledge to residents to remove outdated obstacles and to ensure that our beautiful natural environment is matched by an ambitious, dynamic and attractive urban environment.

The Government has set out the proposed tax offer within planned Investment Zones which are designed to encourage investment and new economic activity, supporting growth and jobs.

Businesses in designated areas within investment zones will benefit from 100 per cent business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises. Local authorities hosting Investment Zones will receive 100 per cent of the business rates growth above an agreed baseline in designated sites for 25 years.

Businesses will receive full stamp duty land tax relief on land bought for commercial or residential development and a zero rate for Employer National Insurance contributions on new employee earnings up to £50,270 per year.

There will also be capital allowance relief to encourage investment.

In addition to the tax offer, planning flexibilities are also being considered with more details about this aspect of the zones expected shortly.

The city also has adopted the Plymouth Plan and Joint Local Plan that sets out the priorities and opportunities for the city centre and waterfront as well as an agreed master plan for the city centre, all of which have been through extensive consultation.

The Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will shortly set out the selection criteria to become an Investment Zone, and the process for designating sites within it.