Freeport East set to create 'global trade hub' as blueprint get thumbs up

George Kieffer is the chairman of the Freeport East bid

George Kieffer, acting chairman of Freeport East, has expressed delight after the project was given the official green light by government - Credit: Warren Page

Plans to create an East Anglian freeport have taken a major step forward after they were given the official green light by government.

Freeport East - based around three tax sites in  Felixstowe, Harwich and at Gateway 14 near Stowmarket - will be enshrined into legislation, opening the door for big tax and other breaks for companies which the government hopes will provide a huge boost to the region - and other regions where freeports are also planned. 

Freeport East acting chairman George Kieffer hailed it as a "major achievement" which would deliver economic growth and high skilled jobs for the region.

"It will work closely together with the private sector as well as education institutions to create these opportunities through innovation and investment. Following designation, businesses investing in the Freeport’s tax sites will be able to benefit from a number of tax reliefs," he said.

“The UK Freeports policy is designed to encourage businesses from around the world to create new hubs of global trade that will transform economic prospects and job opportunities for local communities.

"The location of Freeport East, with the country’s main unitised trade hub at its core and 50% of planned offshore wind capacity on its doorstep, could not be better placed to deliver on these objectives and to help the UK achieve its ambitious energy transition objectives.”

Tax reliefs for the designated tax sites include Stamp Duty Land Tax Relief, Enhanced Capital Allowances, Enhanced Structures and Buildings Allowance, National Insurance Contributions rate relief and business rates relief. There will also be customs sites at Felixstowe, Harwich, Gateway 14, Port One Logistics Park, Horsely Cross, Uniserve and PD Ports.

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Freeport East will "create a global trade hub, resulting in economic growth, bringing more jobs and prosperity to the region", said its architects - a partnership between the container port at Felixstowe and Harwich International, which are owned by Hutchison Ports, Harwich Haven Authority, Haven Gateway Partnership, New Anglia and South East Local Enterprise Partnerships, Suffolk and Essex County Councils, East Suffolk Council, Mid Suffolk District Council and Tendring District Council.

Among the ambitions for the sites is to create an innovation testbed for port technology and clean energy to help meet the government's net zero ambitions.