The UK government has announced the creation of 12 investment zones modelled on the regeneration of London’s Canary Wharf as part of a raft of measures unveiled by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s March Budget.

The new zones will be in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North East, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the East Midlands, Teesside, Liverpool, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hunt also announced “trailblazer” deals for Greater Manchester and West Midlands that would give the regions more “financial autonomy”.

Melanie Leech, CEO of the British Property Federation, said: “Both regions understand the critical importance of real estate to delivering better outcomes for communities and we look forward to working with them to unlock new opportunities for investment.

“Taken together with the Chancellor’s announcement for 12 new Canary Wharf-inspired investment zones and further levelling-up funding, towns and cities across the country will move towards a more strategic and targeted framework of interventions.”

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has secured up to £500m to support housing and regeneration projects in the region.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “The new powers and up to £500m (€567m) in funding set out in this Deeper Devolution Deal is a real vote of confidence in our past success and positions us well to build on this success in the months and years ahead.”

He said: “We’re on target to build 215,000 new homes in the West Midlands by 2031 and we will continue to be ambitious in terms of how we advance housing propositions in town centres, mixed-use developments around key transport hubs and of course major brownfield regeneration sites just as we have before.” 

Hunt also promised to unveil measures to make London’s stock market more attractive after a number of high-profile companies opted to float in New York – but did not announce measures in today’s Budget.

Roger Clarke, CEO of real estate stock exchange, IPSX, said: “None of the measures put forward adequately address the evident issues in the market that have seen London lose ground to New York in attracting and retaining listed companies.

“If the government is serious about supporting London’s capital markets performance then we must move towards implementing the sound proposals outlined in the Edinburgh Reforms, including a reversal of the MIFID II policy which effectively decimated opportunities for small and mid-cap companies to access investors.

“Cutting the regulatory red tape involved, which hinders trading volumes and forces investors to focus on large-cap stocks, would make it more commercially viable for a far broader range of companies of all shapes and sizes to float, and ideally foster an environment where innovative firms choose to stay and grow in London, to the benefit of the wider investment ecosystem and economy.”

Jonathan Hale, head of ESG consulting at Knight Frank, bemoaned the lack of focus on environment sustainability. “Real estate companies are leading the charge in addressing the sector’s contribution to climate change but need the government to mitigate the associated risks and create more opportunities for positive impact,” he said.

“The Chancellor missed the opportunity today, for example, to introduce tax incentives for reducing embodied carbon in retrofit and refurbishment projects. The UK urgently needs more meaningful net-zero targets, particularly following Client Earth’s successful lawsuit against the government last year on its lack of a clear and credible plan on how it will reach its 2050 net-zero goal.”

Nuclear energy, meanwhile, will qualify for the same incentives as renewables, the government announced, and up to £20bn will be allocated for early development of carbon capture and storage.