'Hard work starts now' as East Anglian Freeport gets green light

Looking towards Felixstowe from Harwich one can appreciate the size of Felixstowe Port

Felixstowe and Harwich announced as one of eight freeports in England. - Credit: iWitness

"The hard work starts now" on a new tax-free zone covering Felixstowe and Harwich which is expected to give a £650million boost to the region's economy - after it was given the green light in the Budget.

That is according to the leader of the bid to create the new "Freeport", which is expected to bring in 13,500 jobs - but has to be drawn up from scratch.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced Freeport East would be one of eight similar projects in his Wednesday statement.

Leaders of the bid estimated that a freeport in the East would create 13,500 jobs and secure up to £650m of investment for the region.

They said work could begin on the project in as little as 18 months.

George Kieffer is the chairman of the Freeport East bid

George Kieffer is the chairman of the Freeport East bid - Credit: Warren Page

Chairman of the bid, George Kieffer, said: "I'm delighted, and actually excited.

"It's obviously great news that the chancellor has chosen Freeport East as one of the flagship freeports, but I'm not naïve enough to realise that the hard work starts now.

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"We are now waiting for the government to tell us what the next steps are. I anticipate them being the preparation of a business case to be put forward.

"And we will now need to work with all the partners of the project board, and the new partners that have since supported us, in order to deliver on the initiative in a very quick time."

Mr Kieffer said: "Freeport East offers a unique opportunity to build a truly global trade hub at the same time as accelerating opportunities in green energy and helping level-up the economy."

Freeports are exempt from import taxes on goods coming into the area which are not destined for the UK.

It effectively means the area covered by the Freeport is treated as if it is not part of the country for tax purposes.

In theory, this would make the area more attractive to manufacturing businesses because they could import materials tax-free before exporting their products elsewhere.

The bid was backed by 20 East Anglian MPs in a letter to the chancellor.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey Picture: CHRIS McANDREW/UK PARLIAMENT

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey Picture: CHRIS McANDREW/UK PARLIAMENT - Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, whose constituency includes Felixstowe, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the chancellor’s announcement.

"This is great news for employment and prosperity on both sides of the Harwich Haven with over 13,500 jobs created, many of which will be highly skilled.

"As he said in the chamber today, this will be an unprecedented economic boost.”

Bernard Jenkin (Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex) Picture: House of Commons

Bernard Jenkin (Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex) Picture: House of Commons - Credit: Archant

Bernard Jenkin, the MP for Harwich, highlighted the scheme's green credentials.

He said: "This is fantastic news for Harwich and for the UK's net-zero ambitions.

"Ever since the Bathside Bay proposal got delayed, there has been a paralysis over the economic development around Harwich. 

"Now we can move forward again.

"This will bring new business and new jobs and the Hydrogen Green Energy hub will be a huge boost for kickstarting the decarbonisation of container shipping."

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says Suffolk's goal must be to reach Tier 1 in a fortnight. Picture: HOUSE OF CO

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS - Credit: Archant

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, another of those who offered his backing, said the news was very welcome.

"There are areas of deprivation in Ipswich which will benefit hugely by the introduction of the Freeport and this will help us deliver on the levelling up agenda for Ipswich," he said.

Read more about what a freeport could mean for the region here.