East Suffolk Council gives backing to Freeport East bid
- Credit: MIKE PAGE/PORT OF FELIXSTOWE
A bid for Suffolk and north Essex to have a designated freeport can now be submitted, after councillors in East Suffolk gave their backing for the scheme which could create thousands of new jobs.
East Suffolk Council's cabinet unanimously backed the bid for the Port of Felixstowe and Bathside Bay in Harwich, both operated by Hutchison Ports, to become one of 10 freeport facilities across the UK, that will operate on its own custom zone that aims to boost international trade, economic growth and business opportunities.
The bid, which also includes the Gateway 14 business park development spearheaded by Mid Suffolk District Council off the A14, must be submitted to the government by Friday.
East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant, Conservative, said: "This is a really, really important bid being submitted" and added: "It will have a huge financial and economic benefit to the district, and the district of Tendring where Harwich sits."
If the government backs the Felixstowe and Harwich bid, it 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 gross value added.
Other benefits freeports enjoy are flexible tariff structures, simplified customs processes, additional funding for infrastructure upgrades, and tax measures as an incentive for investment.
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East Suffolk's deputy leader and Conservative cabinet member for economic development, Craig Rivett, said: "Felixstowe is the largest, busiest container port in the UK with global connections. Opportunities arise for levelling up and regeneration with jobs creation, and we must identify some neighbourhoods in the area are ranked in the top 20% of deprivation.
"Furthermore, sites are identified that are ready for development."
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He added: "With this aligning with our strategic plan, the Freeport East bid continues the tremendous number of investment opportunities for East Suffolk to build back better and greener."
In Felixstowe, approval would see a 68-acre logistics park developed, while Mid Suffolk District Council has already lodged its planning application for the Gateway 14 development off the A14 near Stowmarket.
However Rachel Smith-Lyte from the Green group referenced a report from the Wildlife and Countryside Link which said that the government proposals did not evidence freeports in other countries in which "lax application processes and regulation, and poor enforcement" had led to "serious environmental degradation".
Labour group leader Peter Byatt said it was "a good example of another exciting opportunity for boosting East Suffolk's economy".
The government will assess the applications in March and confirm successful bids in the spring.