The Solent has a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to level-up local communities, turbocharge post-Brexit trade and invest in a net zero future, say the partners behind an ambitious bid for Freeport status.
The bid is in response to a competitive process designed to establish at least 10 UK Freeports. Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently described Freeports as an opportunity to “turbo-charge post-Brexit trade”.
The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, the region’s lead for economic development, has submitted a Freeport proposal to the government on behalf of a coalition of businesses, local authorities and other partner organisations.
Successful areas will benefit from tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures and streamlined planning processes to promote regeneration and innovation. The area will also be able to retain business rate growth to reinvest locally.
In the Solent’s case, bid partners estimate Freeport status would help create more than 50,000 jobs and attract £2 billion in extra investment.
Solent LEP Chair, Brian Johnson, said: “We believe we have a compelling case for the Solent Freeport. If this once-in-a-generation bid is successful, it will directly support the government’s commitment to levelling-up the economy both here in the Solent and across the UK. Like many coastal communities, parts of our region have long-standing challenges to address deprivation, and the pandemic has affected these communities more than most.
“Freeport status will enable us to create more than 50,000 jobs, many of them at major new employment sites that will ensure all parts of our area can benefit from the prosperity new trading relationships will bring.
“This is an opportunity for us to invest in all of our futures and we are committed to ensuring the strongest platform possible for a sustainable recovery. We have already made great progress supporting environmental innovation, including investment in a new, world leading zero emissions facility for cruise vessels in Southampton and Centre for Enzyme Innovation to develop green solutions for the breakdown of plastics in Portsmouth. Freeport status will act as a catalyst to help us take even more strides forward in innovation, job creation and green growth.”
The government is expected to announce which areas have been successful later this year.