CONCERNS have been raised over the risk of planning powers being taken away from local people if Gloucestershire becomes an investment zone.
The Government is in talks with 38 local councils across England and has said the selected regions will benefit from tax relief it will drive growth and unlock housing across the country.
Gloucestershire County Council is among those currently in discussions about the zones which are designed to encourage investment and new economic activity, supporting growth and jobs.
However, opposition councillors have asked for more transparency over the proposals and fear they could hand power to unelected bureaucrats in Westminster.
Lib Dem group leader Ben Evans said: “This Conservative Government is flailing about trying to save the country from a financial crisis that is all of their own making.
“Whilst the plans are still very unclear, we have concerns that taking planning decisions away from local people and handing them to bureaucrats in Westminster is undemocratic. Once this development is allowed there will be no way of undoing it, and local people will have had no say in it.
“The current Conservative lurch to the right, including a mini budget aimed at benefiting the richest 1%, does not pay any attention to the needs, wants and ambitions of the people in Gloucestershire. I am concerned investment zones will not address the real issues.”
Labour group leader John Bloxsom said “We are very concerned at the proposals announced by the chancellor which sweep away planning and regulatory controls.
“These will remove protection of communities and workers in favour of tax give aways to developers. District councils and other political parties have not been involved in discussions to date. We are calling for publication of the exchanges with Government and full transparency.”
Cllr Hawthorne said the council is delighted that the Government sees Gloucestershire as an area worth investing in.
“Despite the Lib Dems not even wanting us to try and bid for more funding for our communities, this Conservative administration is committed to fighting for the people of Gloucestershire and will always grasp opportunities on its behalf.
“We have already secured nearly a billion pounds for significant infrastructure projects including the A417, as highlighted by the chancellor on Friday.
“We are looking forward to Gloucestershire being part of the government’s ambitious plan for growth by creating jobs and allowing local authorities to keep business rates growth to reinvest in local projects.