On Friday 5 February, the Combined Authority submitted a bid to Government to host a Great Western Freeport. This exciting bid was developed alongside public and private sector partners, with the support of our region’s universities and colleges, innovation centres, local authorities, and businesses across a wide range of industries.
The Great Western Freeport would be based around the Port of Bristol, including the wider Avonmouth & Severnside area, with additional tax and customs sites at the Junction 21 Enterprise Area in North Somerset and the Gravity Smart Campus near Bridgwater. This multi-site approach ensures that the Great Western Freeport would incorporate some of our region’s major innovation and industrial sites, as well as access to a growing import and export hub at the port.
Freeport status will give us the benefit of a wide package of tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures, streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment, and government support to promote regeneration and innovation. This is all designed to attract major domestic and international investment. It will be a vital boost to our aspiration for green and inclusive growth, regenerating areas, attracting new businesses to grow and locate here, creating new opportunities and customers for existing businesses and providing jobs and skills opportunities for residents across our urban and rural communities.
This is a huge opportunity for the West of England. A Great Western Freeport would see our region creating up to 50,000 new jobs for residents and add an additional £6bn to the UK economy. It will turbocharge our recovery from Covid-19 and offer new opportunities to become a national hub for trade, and a global centre for new sectors such as green manufacturing.
The freeport sites border some of our most deprived communities, and it is a real ambition of mine that freeport status will help systematically reduce deprivation through new, decent jobs and higher wages for residents. This will be compounded further through the investments I am already making to provide more education and skills training, as well as my ambitious plans transport and digital infrastructure across the region. We will ensure that nobody is cut off from the new opportunities a freeport will bring.
I have been encouraged by the wide breadth of support for the bid we have already received from across the region. Alongside our businesses, universities and colleges, I have been particularly pleased that the freeport bid is receiving genuine cross-party support from my council and parliamentary colleagues. We are now all working hard to persuade the Government that a freeport in the West of England will be an excellent boost not only for our region’s economy, but for the UK’s as a whole.
It is not too late to add your voice to the campaign. I would like everybody in the region to back the bid so we can make a clear case to Government that there is real support for a freeport, and that as a region, we have a vision for how to turn the status into a real-world success. Please do get in touch if you are able to offer us a letter of support.