Freeports have different customs rules to the rest of the country. The government aims for freeports to become innovative hubs, boost global trade, attract inward investment and increase productivity. As well as tariff flexibility, customs facilitations and tax measures, freeport status will offer wider benefits for businesses such as planning reforms, funding for infrastructure improvements and innovation incentives.
Setting out criteria for freeports is a key step in the Board’s activity since the launch of their action plan, ‘The Green Blue’. Having set out a vision to boost the local economy and unlock the potential of the Estuary, the Board’s requirements for freeport proposals demonstrate their collective influence, as well as their drive to push forward infrastructure changes that will benefit the local communities and residents.
Estuary Envoy, Kate Willard, said: “The Thames Estuary is well placed to become one of ten freeports proposed for the UK. The freeport will generate jobs and opportunities for the whole area, benefitting communities along the Estuary that need it most. The emerging freeport proposals must align with The Green Blue to truly maximise the benefits, potential and opportunities within the Estuary, that we as a Board have our sights set on fulfilling.”
The six principles set out by the Thames Estuary Growth Board for freeport proposals that come forward within the region are:
Economic: Proposals need to demonstrate how freeport status would improve productivity, employment opportunities, boost trade, improve skill levels and overall prosperity across the Thames Estuary, and how it would support the Growth Board ambitions of £115bn additional GVA by 2050.
Investment: Proposals must show the public and private investment that freeport status would draw to the Estuary. This includes the physical and digital infrastructure needed and how investment will support wider issues such as housing.
Innovation: Proposals must show how freeport status will drive innovation, including how it will be used to address wider issues such as climate change. Innovative approaches to training and development must be detailed and ensure that benefits are felt locally.
Environment: Proposals must show how negative environmental impact will be minimised and recognise the opportunity to develop innovative approaches, as well as how the natural environment will be protected and enhanced.
Regeneration: Proposals need to demonstrate the opening up of new opportunities, including new employment and training, and ‘levelling up’ of the region. Proposals must show how they bring benefits to the Thames Estuary, articulating the economic, social and environmental benefit to the Estuary community as a whole.
Community: Proposals must show how they will work with local communities to support access to training, how they will raise awareness of opportunities and aspiration, and how this will have a positive impact on a range of outcomes for local communities.
In Autumn 2020, locations wishing to secure Freeport status will be invited to submit their proposals.
The Thames Estuary Growth Board, led by Estuary Envoy Kate Willard, has set out guiding principles for freeport proposals within the region. Putting the needs and interests of Estuary residents first, the principles lay out what the Board expects from a freeport and how this will benefit the Estuary region.