Chancellor also unveils plans for investment zones which he says could create “12 potential Canary Wharfs”


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Stoke-on-Trent is among the 20 areas in England earmarked for levelling up cash

Jeremy Hunt has unveiled £761m for various projects aimed at boosting regeneration in his first full budget as chancellor.

The chancellor today announced £400m for ‘levelling up partnerships’ for 20 areas of England the government considers are most in need of levelling up (see box below).

The government said it will “work with local leader and mayors” along with local businesses to “identify and address barriers to levelling up”.

Hunt also announced fresh plans for 12 investment zones which will benefit from tax breaks, clustered around research institutions such as universities.

Their focus will be on growth in key areas as technology, creative industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the green sector as part of a drive which the chancellor said could create “12 potential Canary Wharfs”.

The £400m for ’levelling up partnerships’ will be allocated on a “case-by-case basis” but spread across the regions geographically.

Hunt pledged to invest £200m in local regeneration projects in left behind places across England judged to be “high quality”.

The government is also putting £161m into high-capital regeneration projects including including business premises and food science facilities in Tees Valley, and unlocking investment in a research campus in the Liverpool City Region.

Hunt Spring Budget 3

Jeremy Hunt delivering today’s Spring Budget

Hunt also announced that West Midlands and Greater Manchester Combined Authorities would get more control over affordable housing funding in their areas.

The two authorities will “set the overall strategic direction, strategy, objectives and local leadership for the deployment of the Affordable Homes Programme” in their region.

Hunt said: “I will also boost mayors’ financial autonomy by agreeing multi-year single settlements for the West Midlands and the Greater Combined Manchester Authority at the next spending review, something I intend to roll out for all mayoral areas over time.”

The budget’s announcements on the 12 investment zones included eight initial invitations to English combined authorities, each back by £80m, to apply, with further areas to be set up in the devolved administations.

An earlier version of the policy under the short-lived Liz Truss government proposed streamlined planning rules.

However, the latest policy document published today said there would be no “top-down” solution on planning from the government.

Instead, it said areas proposing investment zones “should have a credible and ambitious planning offer to accelerate the development necessary to support the cluster while maintaining high environmental standards”.

It added: “Places in England should look at proactive master-planning, bespoke engagement and support to applicants, and the use of Local Development Orders and other innovative routes to permission, where appropriate, to deliver exemplar development faster and to support the long-term success of the Zone.” It said there must be a single point of contact for investors on planning matters.

Hunt said: ”To be chosen, each area must identify a location where they can offer a bold and imaginative partnership between local government and a university or research institute in a way that catalyses new innovation clusters.

“If the application is successful, they will have access to £80m of support for a range of interventions including skills, infrastructure, tax reliefs and business rates retention.”

Aecom’s chief executive for Europe Colin Wood said: “Today’s commitment to 12 Investment Zones with a focus on research and innovation is a welcome start. Funding of £80m over five years will enable these zones to make some headway but the successful stimulation of business investment is critical.”

Today’s plan represents a scaling down of the investment zone idea from the Truss proposals for more than 200 zones announced in her mini-Budget last year.

Levelling up partnership areas

City of Kingston upon Hull,




Blackburn with Darwen,






Redcar and Cleveland







South Tyneside