Eight freeports will be established in England as the Chancellor acknowledges the sector’s role in anchoring high-quality jobs and prosperity in regional economies, it was announced in today’s Budget.
The first tranche of freeports include successful bids from East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe/Harwich, Liverpool, Humber, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. However more designations could be needed elsewhere to prevent regions losing out.
Commenting on the developments, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association – the trade body representing UK ports and terminals which has promoted a policy of port zoning akin to the Freeports concept – said:
“We welcome this as a first tranche of freeports in England but there will be regions that are disappointed not to have been recognised. These are an interesting selection of bids and we look forward to a continuing a partnership with Ministers who rightly recognise the critical role that ports can play in anchoring prosperity and supporting important industries in our coastal communities.
“It is important that the Government now considers how it can extend many of these benefits elsewhere if it is serious about its implementing its levelling up agenda.
“We hope that Government will keep an open mind on further bids in England and perhaps reconsider proposals for those ports not successful today, which still play a foundational role in supporting a number of growing sectors from logistics to offshore wind to tourism. Some elements of the freeports programme could easily be spread much further, helping to create more productive and high quality jobs without incurring significant costs to the exchequer or requiring complex oversight or administration. This would also help ease fears from sections of the industry about the Government’s intervention and perception of ‘picking winners’.
“It is welcome that red diesel releif has been extended to the whole commercial boat operating industry but it makes no sense whatsoever to wallop ports’ cargo handling operations with additional duties when there are no viable alternatives to diesel the highly specialised non-road mobile machinery in use at terminals. This will serve to make moving freight by water - the most carbon efficient way to move cargo - less competitive against more polluting modes of transport.” (attribute to Mark Simmonds, Director of Policy at BPA).
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