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East Midlands Chamber News

East Midlands makes green growth freeport bid - with hopes it could create 60,000 jobs in region

An East Midlands bid for freeport status has been submitted to the Government today (5 February) – with hopes it could provide a huge boost to the region’s economy and create tens of thousands of jobs.

A consortium led by the two local enterprise partnerships that represent Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire have compiled the proposal to deliver a unique inland freeport at the heart of the UK.

It would have 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.

Made in response to the Government’s freeport prospectus, the region has put forward a compelling 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 Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) in South Derbyshire.

The sites’ central and strategic location could provide a range of employment and skills opportunities throughout the three counties and strengthen connectivity across the wider Midlands region – stimulating investment while developing and growing the region’s 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 SMEs and large regional employers including Rolls-Royce, Toyota and Bombardier.

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 capitalise and grow 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 prosper.

“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.”

What are the benefits of a freeport?

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 freeport bid has been submitted by a consortium including private sector businesses and local authorities, with support from universities, business groups, local MPs and the proposed Midlands Engine Development Corporation.

Kevin Harris, who chairs the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership’s board of directors, added: “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.”

East Midlands Chamber supports East Midlands freeport bid

East Midlands Chamber is one of a significant number of organisations in the region to support the freeport bid.

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.”

Council leaders across the three counties have also offered their backing alongside ministers including Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards, North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen and South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler.

Clare James, managing director of Chamber strategic partner East Midland Airport, said: “We’re delighted to be part of a regional freeport bid that, if successful, could create thousands of jobs for local people.

“East Midlands Airport (EMA) is a key regional and national gateway for Britain’s exports and imports.

“Assets like EMA will have a key role to play in helping the Government fulfil its ambition of a ‘global Britain’ especially as the country strikes trade deals around the world.

“As the port of entry and exit, we bring to the Freeport bid, along with our road haulage and rail operating partners, the connectivity that is one of this region’s unique strengths.”

Dave Johnson, Ratcliffe-on-Soar site manager for Uniper, added: “Uniper sees a clear opportunity for the region by combining the Ratcliffe-on-Soar site with the EMAGIC and EMIP sites in an inland freeport, promising manufacturing-based growth connecting the East Midlands and UK businesses to global markets.”

“The East Midlands Automotive Intermodal Park (EMIP) will allow businesses to re-shore manufacturing jobs here taking advantage of simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods. This bid will be a win win for our local economy.”