Freeport project could create 13,500 new jobs

A CGI showing how the new Port of Felixstowe Logistics Park could look in the heart of the port complex   

A CGI showing how the new Port of Felixstowe Logistics Park could look in the heart of the port complex - Credit: Courtesy of the Port of Felixstowe

A bid to create a "freeport" to bring thousands of new jobs to Suffolk and Essex is set to be submitted to Government in the next few days.

Freeport East would be a partnership project encompassing the Port of Felixstowe, Bathside Bay at Harwich and the proposed Gateway 14 business development site at Stowmarket.

The project would create customs zones operating outside the normal custom rules to increase international trade along with tax, planning and business incentives.

The deadline for the bid is February 5.

Freeport East could bring millions of tonnes of extra trade from around the world 

Freeport East could bring millions of tonnes of extra trade from around the world - Credit: Courtesy of the Port of Felixstowe

At Felixstowe port, the project would see the development of the Felixstowe Logistics Park on a 68-acre site with 1,400,000 sq ft of build-to-suit distribution warehouses ranging from 100,000 to 800,000 sq ft at the UK's busiest container terminals and largest intermodal rail facility.

When planning permission was granted five years ago, community leaders were told the development would cost £100million.

Bathside Bay

Bathside Bay at Harwich has been waiting for a regeneration project for decades - Credit: Mike Page

Over at Harwich,  Bathside Bay could be transformed into a new terminal, while plans have just been submitted for the Mid Suffolk District Council-owned Gateway 14 site where the council and private developers Jaynic want to build a 2.45m sq ft business, warehousing and industrial centre on a 42-acre site site off Junction 50 of the A14.

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East Suffolk Council's cabinet will discuss the freeport proposals on Tuesday, February 2 and members are asked to give their backing to the plan so it can be submitted to Government three days later.

A report to councillors says: "Freeport status would provide the catalyst for additional development, new economic activity and job creation in areas which have the land and the labour market for large-scale development but need central government stimulus to fully realise this opportunity.

"Up to 12,000 direct, indirect and construction jobs will be generated across the region in the event of construction and full occupation of the three tax sites, of which a majority of new jobs will be located in the Haven Ports area.

"The tax measures applied to these sites are expected to generate further economic activity related to target sectors and their supporting services, such as renewable energy (offshore/hydrogen), technology/advanced engineering and port-related activities.

"The East of England is one of the hardest hit areas nationally by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Freeport East will bring new specialised production and manufacturing jobs, as well as logistics, R&D and support service activities to the region, providing immediate job opportunities in expanding and emerging industries and a dedicated programme to upgrade skills across diverse communities."

A planning application has been submitted to build business, warehouse and industrial space on the outskirts of Stowmarket

The blue area shows the site of the proposed business, warehouse and industrial space at the Gateway 14 site in Stowmarket by Junction 50 of the A14 - Credit: Sealand

The draft bid reckons between 12,000 and 13,500 new jobs could be created, plus an extra 1.3million tonnes of international trade could be generated.

Craig Rivett, deputy council leader and cabinet member with responsibility for economic development, said a freeport would enable economic growth post-Covid when "such growth is an even greater priority".

He added: "Freeport status will also strengthen our current competitive advantage within the ports and logistics sector as well as strengthening existing and emerging sectors in low/ zero carbon energy and not least our ambitions around establishing a hydrogen economy within the district."