AN economic partnership for the south west of England has welcomed the announcement of plans to invest in the Gravity smart campus in Somerset.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, unveiled his growth plan in a ‘mini budget’ on Friday, September 23.

Mr Kwarteng confirmed plans to set up 38 Investment Zones in England - including at the Gravity site, located just north of Bridgwater.

The 616-acre former Royal Ordnance Factory has been identified as a potential site for a gigafactory for the production of electric vehicle batteries.

According to the government, each Investment Zone will offer “generous, targeted and time-limited tax cuts for businesses and liberalised planning rules to release more land for housing and commercial development”.

Councillor Bill Revans, leader of Somerset County Council, welcomed the Chancellor's announcement about the proposed Investment Zone.

Cllr Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council, also “broadly welcomed” the initiative, saying it could be an “important tool for Somerset”.

Somerset County Gazette: Kwasi Kwateng delivers his mini-budget in the House of Commons. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA WireKwasi Kwateng delivers his mini-budget in the House of Commons. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire (Image: PA)

Now, the South West Business Council (SWBC), an economic partnership for the south west, has reacted warmly to the announcement.

Paul Coles, CEO of SWBC, said: “This is a significant step for what is a groundbreaking project.

“Gravity has the potential to become a fundamental part of the South West’s low carbon future, driving innovation, sustainable growth and opportunity for the whole region.

“We have been liaising with the team at Gravity for some time, and will continue to work closely with them to help support the delivery of what is a hugely exciting opportunity not just for the south west, but for the whole of the UK.”

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However, Investment Zones have been criticised by some, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), over a perceived threat to nature.

The society said Investment Zones could lead to large developments being encouraged “little or no restriction” as part of an “attack on nature”.

The Gravity site aims to become a destination for international investment. It could create up to 7,500 jobs, and it has consent to build up to 750 homes.

The site has the potential for an on-site rail teminal and is located near junction 23 of the M5.