Plymouth is to become a Freeport unlocking million pounds of funding for the area – both with within the city’s boundaries and across wider South Devon area.
Plymouth City Council led a partnership with Devon Country and South Hams District Council as well as the Heart of the South West LEP on a bid to become a freezone which would include sites at Devonport South Yard, Langage Energy Zone and Sherford Business Park.
The Plymouth and South Devon freezone would aim to create space for businesses to import goods and materials, add value to them (by manufacture), and export them and leverage Plymouth’s marine innovation strengths to attract big marine sector tech companies. Industry giants Babcock and Princess Yachts have already backed the bid.
A key factor in the bid is the city’s commitment to high tech marine innovation with a focus on carbon zero technology.
Up to 1,000 new jobs could be created in the first two years and up to 9,000 over the next 10 years and 50 new apprenticeships and 10 internships every year by 2027.
More than 70 local businesses are expected to benefit from the scheme, which is forecast to bring in over £100m investment in the next six years.
Councillor Tudor Evans OBE, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “This is a big deal with big numbers. While we are waiting for the detail I am beyond chuffed that our thriving marine sector has been recognised as a strength and something to build on.
“It also shows that working with our neighbouring colleagues pays off. Bottom line this means jobs, job security, opportunities and significant investment.
“We are calling our Freeport a freezone because it is about much more than a port. This will benefit a lot of people across this area.”
“This is also much needed recognition that levelling up is as important for us in Plymouth in the far the South West as it is to the North of England.”
Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for economy, Rufus Gilbert, said: “I am delighted that the Government has approved the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport.
“The county council was pleased to join this bid along with Plymouth City Council and South Hams District Council and it will provide a multi-million pound boost to economic recovery.
“With the success of the vaccination programme and the Chancellor’s support for Devon’s vital tourism and hospitality businesses, it is really important that we join together to drive economic recovery.
“The Freeport will help level up the regional economy and provide good jobs for local people as well as welcome apprentice opportunities for our young people.”
Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council said: “Extremely encouraging news from Rishi Sunak today: Plymouth and South Devon will have one of the first Freeport locations in England. This is great news for us in South Hams because it could bring thousands of jobs and millions of pound of investment to our doorstep. I am delighted that once again our collaborative efforts to work across local authority boundaries has proven successful, and I look forward to continuing our work with Plymouth City Council and Devon County Council as this exciting opportunity unfolds.”
The bid was based on three strategic pillars – marine and defence innovation, manufacturing and light processing, warehousing and staged imports.
Under the new Freeport status the proposed sites would enjoy specific tax and relief benefits with companies based there able to access special allowances encouraging firms to invest.
The aim would be to increase export trade and direct foreign investment. Another goal would be to not only increase the number of jobs, but the calibre of jobs and encourage higher income jobs into the area through research and innovation opportunities
The knock-on effect locally will enable Devon County Council to bring forward works at the Deep Lane junction on the A38, unlocking housing at Sherford.
Once the councils have more details from the Government about their model, they will be working up a more detailed business case. If all goes to plan the Freezone could be up and running by summer of next year.