Freeport is a 'once in a generation' chance to create thousands of jobs
- Credit: Mike Page
A major bid to build a freeport in Essex has been hailed as a “once in a generation opportunity” as civic chiefs back new tax and customs sites, including one in Bathside Bay.
It is believed the Felixstowe and Harwich bid could create up to 13,500 new jobs for the area over 10 years, while estimates are that it would deliver an additional 1.3million tonnes of international trade volume and £66.4m in extra goods and services produced.
Plans for Freeport East, which comes with a share of £175m of initial capital funding, would be one of 10 in the country where normal tax and customs rules do not apply.
Leader of Essex County Council, councillor Kevin Bentley, said he wants to see the amount of retained business rates income maximised, with the delivery of tax and customs sites early – including Bathside Bay, which despite receiving permission to expand into a £300m container port, has never progressed.
Freeports are intended to stimulate economic activity in their designated areas. Economic studies have found the main advantage is that they encourage imports by lowering duty and paperwork costs. Manufacturing businesses inside the freeport can benefit from cheaper imported inputs in comparison to those outside the area.
Freeport East is centred upon the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port, both operated by Hutchison Ports, part of the CK Hutchison group.
Other partners include South East and New Anglia LEPs, Suffolk and Essex county councils, East Suffolk Council, Mid Suffolk, Babergh and Tendring District Councils. It is backed by a wide range of businesses, business organisations and education providers.
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Mr Bentley said: “The objectives and ambitions set out in the Freeport East bid remain a once in a generation opportunity to benefit our local area and continue to align with our economic and regeneration policies; especially green growth and the regeneration of an area, which has pockets of significant deprivation, through the development and delivery of clean growth hub at Bathside Bay.
“Our expectation is that the local authorities will work together to maximise the amount of retained business rates income, by delivering tax and customs sites early – including Bathside Bay.
“Once these sites are delivered, the benefits must be shared widely – including reaching residents and businesses in deprived communities within north Essex.”
The letter also confirms the county council supports the proposed principles for use of retained business rates.
It is not yet clear how decisions on spend will be made as this may depend on the legislation enacted.
It is anticipated that any decisions on spend would involve Tendring District Council, Essex County Council, and representatives of the wider Freeport East Board once it is constituted.