Saturday, August 20, 2022

East Midlands makes Freeport bid in opportunity to create thousands of jobs

An East Midlands bid for Freeport status has been submitted to the government by a consortium led by the two Local Enterprise Partnerships that represent Leicester, Leicestershire, Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

The bid would deliver a “unique” inland Freeport at the heart of the UK with “unrivalled” rail connectivity to all UK ports and bring significant investment to develop and drive innovation, alternative energy sources and green technologies, creating close to 60,000 new skilled jobs to areas of deprivation in the East Midlands.

In response to the Government’s Freeport prospectus, the East Midlands has put forward a proposition based around the East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC) in North West Leicestershire, Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station site in Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) in South Derbyshire.

The consortium says the sites’ central and strategic location will provide employment and skills opportunities across the East Midlands and strengthen connectivity across the wider Midlands region to stimulate investment and develop and grow industrial strengths in advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics.

At the heart of the bid is the opportunity to accelerate the region’s commitment to decarbonisation and boost the area’s status as a leading innovation hub for green energy supporting SME’s and large regional employers including Rolls Royce, Toyota, and Bombardier.

Freeports, championed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are designed to attract major domestic and international investment. In November last year, the government set out details of how it will create 10 new Freeports across the UK to create jobs and regenerate communities.

The government has confirmed that UK Freeports will benefit from:

• streamlined planning processes to aid brownfield redevelopment
• a package of tax reliefs to help drive jobs, growth, and innovation
• simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods

The East Midlands bid has been submitted by a consortium including private sector businesses, local authorities, East Midlands Development Corporation with support from universities, business groups, local MP’s and the Midlands Engine.

Kevin Harris, Chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Board of Directors, said: “Central Government support for the development of Freeports is a major opportunity for the East Midlands. The geographic location of our region, and the high levels of entrenched expertise in the fields of logistics and import/export found here, make the East Midlands an obvious choice for the location of a Freeport.

“Leicestershire is home to East Midlands Airport, which is already the largest dedicated freight airport in the UK. Its integration with the East Midlands Gateway logistics hub will ensure the smooth running of the Freeport from day one. Furthermore, it boasts the scope and ambition to expand, meaning that our Freeport capacity can continue to grow to meet the demands of increased investment.

“I’m proud that the LLEP is working in partnership with D2N2 to deliver a Freeport to the East Midlands. If the bid is successful, this project will be of huge benefit to our region, providing innovation, regeneration, and the ‘Skills for the Workforce’ that are a major priority of the LLEP. The benefits conveyed by an East Midlands Freeport will emanate from the heart of the country and mean that success for the East Midlands is shared by the wider UK economy for years to come.”

Elizabeth Fagan CBE, Chair of the D2N2 LEP, said: “The East Midlands Freeport is an integral part of the LEP’s ambition to transform our region’s social and economic future. Through strong collaboration and partnerships, we have assembled a compelling bid that will deliver key government policies, support evidence-based local plans, and drive private sector ambition.

“Freeport status will safeguard our industrial strengths in advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics and boost our competitiveness in new green opportunities to create thousands of jobs and provide SME businesses with a fantastic opportunity to develop and grow.

“It is a project that can be delivered now, allowing us to build back better from the impacts of Covid-19, to level up the region and regenerate our communities to deliver significant economic green growth.”

East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles, said: “The disruption the pandemic has brought has highlighted the importance of the East Midlands as a centre for trade in the UK. Our logistics sector has grown faster here than anywhere else in the country and the airport has played a central role in this as the country’s most important mover of international freight.

“The UK’s exit from the EU amplifies the opportunity for developing new international trade opportunities, to reimagine supply chains and to build greater resilience in existing customer and supplier relationships with the EU and beyond. For the East Midlands this presents us with a massive opportunity.

“We already have the expertise, land, much of the necessary infrastructure and, of course, businesses – but obtaining a freeport with a focus on innovation, low carbon and trade is central to us realising that opportunity to its full extent.”

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