Another significant milestone has been reached for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport which has now received approval from the Government for its Outline Business Case, along with two of its proposed tax sites.

A freeport in Plymouth and South Devon will create a zone designated by the Government with certain allowances to boost the economy. These allowances will include lower taxes and customs, such as favourable tariffs, VAT or duties.

This fantastic news for Plymouth and South Devon will result in the unlocking of millions of pounds worth of funding for the region. It will encourage a resurgence of economic activity with businesses more inclined to open in the area, creating thousands more jobs and bringing vast investment into the local community.

This is a huge boost for the whole South West region offering a host of opportunities for the future, whilst aiding faster local economic recovery following the difficulties of the past two years and the unprecedented challenges brought about by Covid-19.

Following legislation being laid, known as Statutory Instruments (SI), for 21 days prior to activation, Government approval of the Outline Business Case means that two of the three Freeport tax sites, South Yard and Sherford, are now designated and the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport officially active from 4 July. These sites were originally identified at the bid stage as undeveloped and under-utilised land suitable for generating new, additional productive activity. The third site, Langage, will likely follow with designation in the autumn.

The Full Business Case sign off for the Freeport is expected in August along with custom site and operator authorisation, enabling qualifying businesses to access the wide variety of benefits that come with being part of the Freeport.

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Richard Bingley: “We’re delighted that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has signed off our outline business case for our Freeport.

“The Freeport will be an historic opportunity for Plymouth to fully orientate our economy into delivering higher value jobs and to become a core international trading location post-Brexit. Implementing the Freeport will be a huge operation, not without difficult challenges. But our objective to deliver at least 3,500 well paid jobs into our regional economy is well worth it.

“I’d like to thank our exceptional teams for working with extraordinary diligence and dexterity, to make this happen.”

From the initial Freeport bid process Plymouth City Council, South Hams District Council and Devon County Council have worked with private sector organisations and landowners. As a condition of Freeport designation, an independent company must be formed which has a chair and board of directors. Plymouth and South Devon Freeport Limited, a private company limited by guarantee without share capital, was formed recently and is currently being led by Interim Chair, Adrian Bratt, General Counsel at Princess Yachts.

Adrian Bratt, Chair Plymouth and South Devon Freeport Limited & Director, Princess Yachts Ltd. said: “Now that the Chancellor has signed off the outline business case, this shows that the Government has acknowledged that the South West is already a world leader in terms of our marine, defence and space clusters. The Freeport will supercharge these existing specialties furthering the investment, growth and development of the city and region as a whole.”

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “This is one of the most exciting things to happen in the South Hams for jobs and business opportunities. It will bring welcome investment into the area and make the district more appealing to investors from around the world. After the difficulties during the pandemic this is crucial to boosting our economy.

“We have worked closely with our partners at Plymouth City and Devon County Councils on this project and with the help of Government approval we are one step closer to this Freeport which is of huge significance to our region.”

Devon County Council Leader John Hart said: “This approval from the Chancellor is a major milestone for the Freeport and I welcome the Government recognition and support for this ambitious project. The Freeport presents an opportunity to generate new jobs for local people, attract investment, and stimulate growth in green technologies to help our economy make a strong recovery.”

The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Secretary of State for International Trade recently visited Plymouth following a successful visit from the Government’s Freeport and Department for International Trade team. She saw for herself the vast opportunities that the Freeport will afford the city, South Hams, Devon and the wider South West region.

The Secretary of State visited Freeport anchor tenants Princess Yachts to understand the extent of the export success story and heard firsthand about Ocean Futures, the multi-partner collaboration programme which focuses on autonomy, digital oceans and clean maritime of which the Freeport closely aligns.

The Secretary of State was also briefed on the Marine Autonomy Assurance Testbed (MAAT), an Ocean Futures strategic project from core partners Lloyds’ Register and National Physical Laboratory. The MAAT programme will see the creation of a fully synthetic and virtualised environment to test, prove and assure marine autonomy scenarios by utilising live data from Smart Sound Connect on a digital platform.

The Freeport skills uplift programme was also discussed which will assist to solve a growing labour shortage in the city and ensure a ‘ramping up’ of production across the region to meet export potential.

Councillor Mark Shayer, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Economy for Plymouth City Council said:​ “The Freeport has the potential to be one of the biggest economic boosts the region has seen in years and at a really critical time for our residents.

“Huge amounts of work has taken place behind the scenes to get an exciting but complex concept into existence and this approval of the outline business case is another positive signal that means we can get on with the task of creating higher quality jobs, unlocking £100 million investment in just two years as well as get cracking on opportunities to upskill our work force.”

The next stage for the Freeport will be mobilisation, including a national recruitment campaign for a permanent chair and CEO of the company, establishing a delivery programme for the capital works across the designated sites, activating the innovation and skills services to support new businesses and high value jobs and inward investment marketing activity.

The Plymouth and South Devon Freeport will officially be operational in the autumn once the Full Business Case has been approved. Businesses wishing to find out more about the exciting opportunities afforded by the Freeport can contact the Freeport team directly.