South West ideally located for Freeport status
The South West is considered to be a perfect location to take full advantage of the massive potential which Freeports are set to offer. Given the benefit of its ‘western approach deep sea port’ natural resource, the region also incorporates many other important factors which combine to make the South West an ideal place for the envisaged potential Freeports are set to unleash. From many perspectives there are several worthy candidates within the region with excellent credentials for Freeport status and it now remains to be seen which ones apply and which ones the government select. For more information on the South West’s prospects in this connection please read the article below which was issued by Insider Media today.
Roger Mundy, Managing Director, Beardsley Theobalds, 16th October 2020
Freeports: The South West is perfectly located – Bowles
Business leaders have told Insider about the huge potential Freeports would unleash in the South West and how this would build on the natural assets and infrastructure that is already in place.
Tim Bowles, the West of England Combined Authority mayor, said the region was perfectly located given its "western approach deep sea port".
"I have been talking to Bristol Port for some time about this subject and for me this should not be just based around the old-fashioned concept of Freeports," said Bowles.
"This should be about how we create an enterprise zone around Severnside and link that with manufacturing heartland of the region which is based around South Gloucestershire.
"South Gloucestershire has got the highest GDP per head across the whole of the region because of the economic powerhouse based around manufacturing.
"If we link those two up that is where we can make a transformational impact on the region."
John Chaplin, director of external affairs and special projects at the Bristol Port Company, said the port was well-positioned to work with others parties for the wider benefit of the region.
"The model that we’re pursuing, in line with a range of partners, is that Bristol Port as the South West region’s deep sea port would be the import and export facility serving a number of potential Freeport Zones within the region including the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area, Filton Enterprise Area, J21 Enterprise Area near Weston-super-Mare and an innovative sustainable energy focused development deeper into Somerset, called Gravity," said Chaplin.
A former MoD site, Gravity is a brownfield site of 635 acres, within the hinterland of the EDF scheme at Hinkley Point C, undergoing a transformation into a "smart campus" for companies associated with advanced manufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence, electric vehicles, assembly, R&D, offices and distribution space.
The site has direct access to junction 23 of the M5, on-site freight and passenger rail terminals. Indeed one of the attractions of including it in the scope of the Freeport is that the former MoD site was rail connected to the mainline, and Claire Pearce, who is running the Gravity scheme, has made a submission to the Department of Transport and Network Rail to restore a rail freight link, which would run directly to Bristol Port's Royal Portbury Dock, as well as rail passenger connections directly into the site.
Claire Pearce said: "We're 100 per cent behind the West of England proposition because of our proximity to Bristol Port, but also its access to rail, at the moment as the marshalling port for Hinkley Point C.
"We see huge potential, in the post-Brexit context, for Gravity to offer what is quite an exceptional site, in combination with the proximity of Bristol Port. It’s quite a unique proposition for the UK – to provide scale and advanced manufacturing facilities that can bring in that new era of clean economic growth."
Bowles said a Freeport's impact would be combined with the research and development being brought forward by the combined authority and "the areas where we are working with government in aerospace, transport and innovation".
"We want to deliver a Freeport in a new way which is at the heart of what the West of England is all about, which is new ideas and new innovation.
"There are other parts of the country with incredible, endless brownfield sites around ports in need of remedial work. We don’t have that in the West of England because we are a successful region.
"That is why I think we can do this in a really clever way by creating a hybrid version of a Freeport that links our economic strengths together and allows that to become an economic driver of the future.
"We are talking to the government regularly about this and it is still very much on their agenda. I know the government are keen to do this because they see it very much as part of the global Britain agenda and that is why I think we are perfectly placed."
Insider is campaigning to back the various bids and provide an in-depth guide to the different locations, outlining what their credentials are and what the long-terms benefits to the economy will be.