Public and private sector leaders have set out their joint vision for a new Freeport on the East Coast.
Freeport East would focus on the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port – both owned by Hutchison Ports – and be a strategic hub linking UK importers and exporters with suppliers and customers across the globe, situated as it is at the heart of vital trading routes to Asia and Northern Europe.
Pioneering the next generation of Ports which will drive and support the government’s local and national regeneration strategies, Freeport East will build on the existing ports’ excellent road and rail links to the Midlands and the North of England – the destination for almost a third of Felixstowe’s current throughput.
It will create a manufacturing, green energy and innovation hub that capitalises on the unique qualities of the Eastern Region, the latest advances in digital technology and the Internet of Things, the excellent credentials of the partners involved and the as-yet untapped technological and scientific centres on Freeport East’s doorstep. With its existing links to the clean energy sector, such as the Galloper Windfarm maintenance base at Harwich, Freeport East is ideally positioned to lead on decarbonisation of the country’s energy needs.
Bringing these elements together, alongside the ports’ situation at the heart of European and global trade flows, will deliver a strong economic proposition capable of boosting UK PLC in these difficult times, and to support growth plans of the future throughout the UK.
The vision has been set out jointly by business and local government leaders from Essex, Suffolk, and the wider region, and work is now underway to develop a detailed bid following the publication of the Government’s Freeports prospectus last week.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The LEP is broadly supportive of the freeports policy and sees it as an opportunity to stimulate additional trade and investment, particularly around exports. There is also a chance to grow manufacturing, particularly in the coastal areas nearest ports, and to feed through to the wider supply chain.
“Freeports need to be linked through to skills provision in local areas, as well as innovation and R&D, and align with the existing enterprise zone policy. I think one of the unstated successes of enterprise zones is just how good value for money they have been. Cost per job, on our analysis, is about £10,000 and, in many parts of the country, and it has also linked innovation and R&D centres to enterprise zones.”
George Kieffer, Chairman of the Project Board, said: “I am excited to be leading such a professional and expert team to drive forward a bid that will attract major investment and lead to increased economic prosperity not only locally, but nationally.
“The area is home to some of the most deprived wards in the UK and by bringing lasting regeneration and creating new job opportunities to the region the project will support the government’s levelling-up agenda.
“We look forward to working with universities in the region to make Freeport East a hotbed of innovation in the technologies of the 21st Century.”
Mr Kieffer added his thanks for the strong support already received from MPs in the region.
Clemence Cheng, Executive Director of Hutchison Ports and Managing Director of Hutchison Ports Europe, added: “The combination of the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich offers the UK a unique opportunity in the post-Brexit world, sitting as they do at the main junction point between the UK’s principal trade route to and from the Far East and key freight links to and from northern Europe.
“Together with the leading edge technical skills that come with the partnership with universities, including the University of Cambridge, this combination can serve as a powerful magnet to bring new investment into the UK and in particular to the area around this unique junction point.”
Detailed plans will be set out in a formal bid document.
A video launching the bid can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/483168509/c10b8dff5b