Investment worth £100 million in the first two years, 3,500 jobs and putting over £400 million GVA into Plymouth and South Devon’s economy – that’s what the Freeport is expected to bring.

The only Freeport in the South West is moving closer to existence with the three councils Plymouth, Devon and South Hams District Council set to consider the full business case ahead of its submission to HM Government in April.

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Nick Kelly said: “We are only one of eight areas to get Freeport status and we see this as a brilliant catalyst to build back better and drive economic growth.

“It’s also a chance to showcase our strengths in the marine and defence sectors to the rest of the country, the world, and to support the growing space sector. We have the commitment of some of our largest local employers, including Babcock and Princess Yachts, as key partners in the Freeport.

“Additionally, the Freeport is also about the long term prospects for up-skilling our future workers, making sure there are great job prospects for tomorrow’s workforce.”

Public and private sector organisations including Babcock International, Princess Yachts, Langage Energy Park Ltd, the Heart of the South West LEP, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, the Ministry of Defence and port operators, have worked closely together to finalise the full business case.  

It outlines a comprehensive package of measures, comprising tax reliefs, customs advantages, business rates retention, planning, regeneration, innovation and trade and investment support.

Three key sites in and around Plymouth will form part of the Freeport making over 130 hectares of land available. They are:

South Yard – in addition to the existing Oceansgate complex, this area will be further developed as a tax site and will include a new innovation centre, a mobility hub and new factory developments

Langage – developed as a tax site with a customs zone within it and space for light industrial units for high-value engineering and manufacturing. The main focus will be marine, defence and space. The site also includes proposals for a green hydrogen electrolyser plant.

Sherford – developed as a logistics hub with a tax and customs boundary with warehousing storage and engineering space.

The Freeport is set to provide thousands of direct jobs across Plymouth, Devon and the South Hams. It will bring on suitable land for development which might have taken years longer, welcome new businesses to the area and attract foreign direct investment opportunities. By securing significant investment in innovation, skills, research and development, it will enable Plymouth to develop a global reach, whilst supporting its commitment to clean growth and carbon net zero.

The Freeport is expected to see

  • 3,584 direct jobs created with an average wage of at least £13.92 per hour
  • 10 per cent of jobs created to be filled by inactive claimants and registered unemployed
  • 3,000 m2 of skills infrastructure
  • 2,400 m2 of new innovation space
  • 137.9 hectares of land developed
  • 5 new businesses each year
  • 2 to 3 new foreign direct investment each year
  • 40 business/higher education collaborations a year from 2022
  • £4m a year in private investment in research and development
  • 10 new products developed for market

Councillor Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council said: “The Freeport is an excellent example of local authorities working together without borders to provide long term benefits for the whole region. Together we aim to secure the Freeport to provide more jobs, opportunities, skills where it is needed, foster innovation and capitalise on our strengths. Ensuring that current and future generations of the work force can secure prosperous careers has never been as important.”

Existing local businesses can apply if they can show that locating within the Freeport would help their business to grow and generate new economic growth provided that   their plans cannot be accommodated at their existing location. They can also expect to benefit from growth in local demand for services and supplies generated by the Freeport.

Total capital investment in the Freeport is predicted to reach £311 million. This is made up of £25m in Government seed capital grant and matched locally with £29m. A further £10m will be raised through Levelling Up grant income and it is anticipated that total private sector investment will be close to £247 million.

Cabinet is asked to delegate authority to the Leader of the Council to give final approval to the Full Business Case. On successful submission to Government in April, it is expected that the Freeport will become operational in summer 2022.