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Freeport 2021-02-22T16:46:06+00:00

The West of England Combined Authority, working with a range of public and private partners, has submitted a bid to government for Freeport status.

Government plans to establish 10 Freeports around the United Kingdom, and applications from across England were accepted until 5 February 2021

Bristol Port/Avonmouth Port

Bristol Port Company

Freeports are designated by Government areas with little to no tax in order to encourage economic activity. Companies operating within freeports can benefit from deferring the payment of taxes until their products are moved elsewhere, or can avoid them altogether if they bring in goods to store or manufacture on site before exporting them again.

The Government’s objectives are:

  • Establishing national hubs for global trade and investment;
  • Regeneration and levelling up;
  • Creating hotbeds of innovation.

Freeport status would be a huge opportunity for our region. It would benefit businesses and their supply chains as well as attracting more businesses to grow and locate here, creating more jobs and skills opportunities for residents across our urban and rural communities.

We’re keen to speak to businesses who want to know more about how a Freeport might work and how it could support their ambitions to grow and export. If you want to know more please get in touch at freeport@westofengland-ca.gov.uk.

Great Western Freeport

The West of England is perfectly placed to host a Freeport, based around Bristol Port as the UK’s most centrally located deep sea port.

The region is home to innovative engineering excellence –  in areas such as aerospace, nuclear, food technology, Modern Methods of Construction and automotive transformation. A Freeport would allow us to build on these strengths to drive growth in manufacturing and trade, creating significant new employment.

A Freeport will help us achieve inclusive growth and ‘levelling up’ across the region, by investing in areas of higher deprivation, by providing transport and digital links between customs, tax and other industrial sites, and improving access to education, training and job opportunities.

We have a Local Industrial Strategy that focuses on innovation that crosses sectors and communities, to tackle global, systemic challenges such as climate and ecological emergencies, ageing society, mobility, data and inclusivity. Alongside this, we have developed an Employment and Skills Plan (or see a short summary) which seeks to create new pathways into employment and ensure our residents can reach their potential, whatever their background or circumstances.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to innovate and adapt the way we live and do business. Our Recovery Plan – developed with industry – recognises the crisis also presents opportunities to find new ways of doing things.

Our region is accelerating innovation, with a clear focus on sustainability, inclusivity and cross-sectoral collaboration. This approach will ensure our region remains a thriving, successful place for the future where the environment is protected for future generations.

For more information please download our Great Western Freeport brochure. If you have any queries about our freeport bid, please see our frequently asked questions.


In January 2021, WECA secured over £3m from Government for a 5G Logistics project programme that will develop 5G products and services to support operations at Bristol Port and Gravity Smart Campus and demonstrate a smart and dynamic port environment. The project will focus on security, traceability, and real-time tracking of goods within and across extendable virtual boundaries – and between public and private networks.

WECA is leading a consortium of partners on the £5.2m 5G Logistics project – one of nine projects to receive government funding – which includes companies ADVA, Airspan, AttoCore, Bristol Port, Cellnex UK, Gravity, Maritime, Unmanned Life, Bristol City Council, Bristol University and Cardiff University. 5G is the type of cutting-edge technical innovation that the West of England is looking to embrace with its forthcoming Freeport bid.

Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI)

DETI is a research, innovation and skills initiative, a collaboration of industry and academic partners led by the National Composites Centre (NCC). It sets out to develop and accelerate digital engineering across multiple industry sectors to benefit future generations of engineers and engineering products, and to help tackle global challenges. £5m investment from the Combined Authority has been matched by £5m from industry. The added benefits of Freeport status would further consolidate our strengths as a hotbed of innovation.

Workforce for the Future

A significant new £8m investment to help businesses meet future skills needs, delivered by the Combined Authority in partnership with Adviza, the region’s Further Education colleges, University of the West of England and Weston Training Provider Network.

Workforce for the Future will help the region maximise the employment and skills benefits that Freeport status will bring, matching our education and training provision with areas of economic growth and opportunity.