The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the region’s lead for economic development, has submitted a proposal to the government as part of a competitive process to establish at least ten Freeports.
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 which include local authorities and businesses estimate Freeport status would help attract £2 billion investment into the area and create more than 25,000 jobs in the region across a range of sectors including maritime, science and research, logistics and defence.
The Isle of Wight Council’s Director of Regeneration, Chris Ashman, confirmed support for the bid which focuses on Southampton. He said: “The region acts as a major gateway for UK imports and exports as well as being a major leisure destination and cruise jump off and landing point. The benefits of Freeport status will make the whole region a more attractive place in which to invest and the effort we are putting into offering new employment sites and premises on the Island through our regeneration programme can benefit from the increased profile a successful bid for Freeport status will deliver.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently described freeports as an opportunity to “turbo-charge post-Brexit trade”.
A deadline for bids was set for Friday, February 5, with the government expected to announce which areas have been successful later this year.