Greens on Sheffield City Council have called for the full Council to have the final say on whether Sheffield participates in Investment Zones (1), a controversial Tory Government proposal that strips away planning rules and environmental protections from certain development sites. A range of Environment Organisations including the National Trust and the RSPB have written an open letter to the Government expressing concern about proposals like this that weaken the planning process and drop protections for nature and wildlife. (2)
In the Sheffield area, South Yorkshire Combined Authority has submitted a list of sites to the Government for Investment Zone status, with support from the four council leaders in South Yorkshire and the MPs. Expression of Interest do not commit the authority to the project at this stage.
Councillor Douglas Johnson, Leader of the Green Group on the Council said,
“We have significant concerns over the Government proposals for Investment Zones. They threaten to ride rough-shod over agreed local planning priorities, further damage the environment and nature, and reduce commitments to affordable homes and community facilities. Some Councils have already informed the Government that they will not participate in Investment Zones for these reasons, (3) and Sheffield should follow suit.
“This is a landowners’ charter, which will mean local communities lose their rights to resist unsustainable development and allow developers to by-pass local objections entirely. The big winners will be the big estates that own large areas of urban land.
“The Government wants to remove current legal requirements which protect nature during the planning process. Even worse, it suggests Investment Zones could be allowed in National Parks like the Peak District, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other protected environments.The legal requirement to achieve Net Zero has also been completely ignored.
“Although landowners and developers could make more money, it is not clear what the benefit to the council or the public is, nor how much it would cost them.
“If we are to set aside planning rules in the Sheffield Local Plan, which have to be decided by the Full Council, then it should be the Full Council that decides if we proceed with Investment Zones or not.”