East Midlands Makes Green Growth Freeport Bid

Published: Tue 9 February, 2021

*Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd press release*

Landmark opportunity to create thousands of jobs and boost the East Midlands economy.

An East Midlands bid for Freeport status has been submitted to the government today by a consortium led by the two Local Enterprise Partnerships that represent Leicester, Leicestershire, Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

The bid would deliver a unique inland Freeport at the heart of the UK with unrivalled rail connectivity to all UK ports and bring significant investment to develop and drive innovation, alternative energy sources and green technologies, creating close to 60,000 new skilled jobs to areas of deprivation in the East Midlands.

In response to the Government's Freeport prospectus, the East Midlands has put forward a compelling proposition based around the East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC) in North West Leicestershire, Uniper's Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station site in Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) in South Derbyshire.

The sites' central and strategic location will provide employment and skills opportunities across the East Midlands and strengthen connectivity across the wider Midlands region to stimulate investment and develop and grow our industrial strengths in advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics.

At the heart of the bid is the opportunity to accelerate the region's commitment to decarbonisation and boost the area's status as a leading innovation hub for green energy supporting SME's and large regional employers including Rolls Royce, Toyota, and Bombardier.

Freeports, championed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are designed to attract major domestic and international investment. In November last year, the government set out details of how it will create 10 new Freeports across the UK to create jobs and regenerate communities.

The government has confirmed that UK Freeports will benefit from:

• streamlined planning processes to aid brownfield redevelopment
• a package of tax reliefs to help drive jobs, growth, and innovation
• simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on good

The East Midlands bid has been submitted by a consortium including private sector businesses, local authorities, East Midlands Development Corporation with support from universities, business groups, local MP's and the Midlands Engine.

Kevin Harris is Chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd. Board of Directors. He said:

“Central Government support for the development of Freeports is a major opportunity for the East Midlands. The geographic location of our region, and the high levels of entrenched expertise in the fields of logistics and import/export found here, make the East Midlands an obvious choice for the location of a Freeport.

“Leicestershire is home to East Midlands Airport, which is already the largest dedicated freight airport in the UK. Its integration with the East Midlands Gateway logistics hub will ensure the smooth running of the Freeport from day one. Furthermore, it boasts the scope and ambition to expand, meaning that our Freeport capacity can continue to grow to meet the demands of increased investment.

“I’m proud that the LLEP is working in partnership with D2N2 to deliver a Freeport to the East Midlands. If the bid is successful, this project will be of huge benefit to our region, providing innovation, regeneration, and the ‘Skills for the Workforce’ that are a major priority of the LLEP. The benefits conveyed by an East Midlands Freeport will emanate from the heart of the country and mean that success for the East Midlands is shared by the wider UK economy for years to come.”

Clare James, East Midlands Airport’s Managing Director and LLEP Board Director, said: “We’re delighted to part of regional Freeport bid that, if successful, could create thousands of jobs for local people. East Midlands Airport (EMA) is a key regional and national gateway for Britain’s exports and imports.

“Assets like EMA will have a key role to play in helping the Government fulfil its ambition of a ‘global Britain’ especially as the country strikes trade deals around the world. As the port of entry and exit, we bring to the Freeport bid, along with our road haulage and rail operating partners, the connectivity that is one of this region’s unique strengths.”

Andrew Bridgen, Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire, said: “Freeport status would drive growth in the region's economy, increase job opportunities, drive international trade and investment as well as improve infrastructure.’

“Leaving the EU creates new opportunities for the UK to strengthen the Union and become a hub for international trade and investment. Revitalising our port regions through an ambitious Freeport policy is a key component of realising this vision and unlocking the deep potential of regions such as the East Midlands. Freeports will increase trade, create employment and attract investment in order to form innovative business clusters that benefit local areas.’

“We have the perfect logistical position for a Freeport with the Airport supported by the East Midlands Gateway and superb road links both North to South and East to West. The Airport is already a major trade hub, the UK’s busiest pure-freight airport, with more than 1,000 tonnes of cargo passing through every day and there is scope to at least treble that.”

Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: “With our central location, expertise and ambition, the East Midlands is the right place for a freeport. This is an innovative bid. And not only would it create thousands of jobs and provide a boost for our economy, it would help to put the region on the map. Our economy has taken a big hit during the pandemic and creating this forward-thinking scheme at the heart of the UK would provide a much-needed boost for our businesses and residents.”

Councillor Richard Blunt, Leader of North West Leicestershire District Council, said: “A Freeport in the East Midlands is really exciting opportunity for North West Leicestershire and the wider region, with huge potential to support the economic recovery and growth of the area while maximising our collective potential.

“We are very happy to support the proposal in principle at this early stage. The district council would take a key role in determining future planning applications for development in North West Leicestershire so while supporting the principle, we keep an open mind and look forward to seeing the plans develop.”

Elizabeth Fagan CBE, Chair of the D2N2 LEP, said: “The East Midlands Freeport is an integral part of the LEP's ambition to transform our region's social and economic future. Through strong collaboration and partnerships, we have assembled a compelling bid that will deliver key government policies, support evidence-based local plans, and drive private sector ambition.

“Freeport status will safeguard our industrial strengths in advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics and boost our competitiveness in new green opportunities to create thousands of jobs and provide SME businesses with a fantastic opportunity to develop and grow.

“It is a project that can be delivered now, allowing us to build back better from the impacts of Covid-19, to level up the region and regenerate our communities to deliver significant economic green growth.”

Dave Johnson, Sites Manager, Uniper, said: ‘Uniper sees a clear opportunity for the region by combining the Ratcliffe-on-Soar site with the EMAGIC and EMIP sites in an inland Freeport promising, manufacturing based growth connecting the East Midlands and UK businesses to global markets.’

Ruth Edwards, the Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe, said: Where the Uniper site is located, fully endorsed the submission of the bid, adding: “The intersection of air, road and rail - combined with advanced manufacturing and green technology sites within the vicinity of the freeport - creates a unique and promising opportunity for the country and the region.

The East Midlands is strategically placed to be the beating heart of the UK’s recovery post Covid-19, and this bid has the potential to attract lucrative private investment and generate high-quality jobs for local people.”

Kay Cutts MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said:

“I fully support this bid for a new freeport, at or near East Midlands Airport. Having an inland Freeport would bring an economic boost across Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Alongside the seaport at Immingham, which would help Lincolnshire, it’s a real opportunity to create jobs, skills and business right across the East Midlands”

“The East Midlands may be the only inland Freeport in the country, playing a major role in uplifting the local economy and attracting investors from all over the world.

“The work done by our airport throughout the pandemic shows what we can do here and it’s something that we should look to expand.”

“I believe that our knowledgeable team, which brings together councils, industry experts and our universities, have presented a strong and clear case of how a freeport here in the heart of Britain would boost productivity and growth, and ultimately improve lives in the years ahead.”

Leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council Cllr Simon Robinson, said: “This is a hugely significant project that we’re delighted to support, an environmental and business opportunity that would further enhance Rushcliffe as a great place to live attracting high skilled jobs.

“We’re committed to low carbon initiatives and any such as this that complements plans for the Development Corporation so well, attracting potential international investment, is one we warmly welcome for the East Midlands.”

Mrs Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, said: “I support the joint bid for this inland Freeport as it will bring the much-needed push to level up our part of the country to bring thousands of jobs and surge forward in a post Brexit Britain.

“The East Midlands Automotive Intermodal Park (EMIP) will allow businesses to re-shore manufacturing jobs here taking advantage of simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods. This bid will be a win win for our local economy.”

South Derbyshire District Council Leader, Councillor Kevin Richards, said: “South Derbyshire District Council welcomes the submission of the East Midlands Freeport proposal which has the potential to provide significant economic benefits for the region. A Freeport could attract new investment and support the growth of existing businesses, providing a boost for the East Midlands as it recovers from the impact of the pandemic.”

East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles, said: “The disruption the pandemic has brought has highlighted the importance of the East Midlands as a centre for trade in the UK. Our logistics sector has grown faster here than anywhere else in the country and the airport has played a central role in this as the country’s most important mover of international freight.

“The UK’s exit from the EU amplifies the opportunity for developing new international trade opportunities, to reimagine supply chains and to build greater resilience in existing customer and supplier relationships with the EU and beyond. For the East Midlands this presents us with a massive opportunity.

“We already have the expertise, land, much of the necessary infrastructure and, of course, businesses – but obtaining a freeport with a focus on innovation, low carbon and trade is central to us realising that opportunity to its full extent.”

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