Truss’s investment zones under review as Gove draws environmental red lines

Michael Gove has confirmed he is reviewing investment zones, a key plank of Liz Truss’s plan for growth, as he insisted anything that might undermine the environment is “out”.

In last month’s mini-budget, then chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng laid out plans to heavily reduce taxes on businesses and relax planning rules in at least 38 local authorities, dubbed “investment zones”.

The announcement sparked widespread concern from environmental charities and groups that crucial protections that safeguard wildlife, landscapes, and buildings could be ripped up.

Mr Gove, who returned as Levelling Up Secretary under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak only four months after being dramatically sacked by Boris Johnson, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that investment zones could be scrapped.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (James Manning/PA)
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said environmental protections must not be weakened (James Manning/PA)

He also insisted that “under no circumstances will we weaken environmental protections”.

Asked if the zones – a key part of Ms Truss’s policy platform – are going ahead, he said: “I’m reviewing them.

“We need to make sure that any change that we make is one which of course helps to support economic growth and good jobs for people, but also one of the concerns raised about investment zones was the impact on the environment.

“I’ve been very clear and the Prime Minister has been very clear that under no circumstances will we weaken environmental protections.

“So I will be looking with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the Environment Secretary and with the Prime Minister at the proposals that were drawn up when Liz was prime minister… and anything that might in any way undermine environmental protections is out.”