Plymouth and Exeter bidding to become new tax-free port

Talks are expected to take place this week about submitting a bid for Plymouth and Exeter to become one of the UK’s new tax-break free ports.

Potential partners are due to discuss making a bid that would cover Plymouth’s docks and Exeter Airport and potentially bring huge benefits to the two cities and the wider South West.

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) and South West Business Council (SWBC) have been working on plans for a free port bid and said its benefits for the port, airport and manufacturing businesses could bring 27,000 jobs to the area.
Meanwhile, Bristol is also working on a bid, encompassing Bristol Airport, Severnside, J21 and Filton Enterprise Areas, an energy-focused development near Bridgwater and Bristol Port.

The Treasury has now officially invited applications for bids to create up to 10 new free ports in the UK. Areas selected will benefit from a range of tax reliefs, including on the purchase of land, and the programme will create thousands of jobs, the Treasury said.
The bidding for free ports opened on Monday, November 16, for seven spots in England, with the first expected to open in 2021.

The free port model works by allowing companies to import goods tariff-free and only paying once it was sold into the domestic market, or exporting the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

The UK has had seven free ports in its history, but none since 2012 when the Statutory Instruments which allowed ones in Liverpool, Southampton, Port of Tilbury, Port of Sheerness and Prestwick Airport, expired

Bids need to be submitted by February and will be assessed by a panel chaired by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ahead of a decision in spring.
The Plymouth/Exeter bid would encompass more than a million square feet of the port, airport, high-value manufacturing, innovation and knowledge-intensive space.

It would combine assets from a range of potential partners such as the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Associated British Ports and regional and city airports, to Yeovil helicopter manufacturer Leonardo and Devonport Dockyard operator Babcock International Group Plc.

Tim Jones, chairman of SWBC, said a “consortium” of interested organisations is due to discuss a potential bid imminently but prefers the term free trade zone to free port. He said the benefits to the region could be vast, particularly for its important manufacturing sector, which already has a well-integrated supply chain, and could leverage in new investment.

He said: “There is the opportunity for the whole peninsula to start being a supply chain to a free trade zone. From this, we would expect to generate business to the tip of Cornwall. This is mega stuff.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our new free ports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, levelling up communities across the UK, creating new jobs, and turbo-charging our economic recovery.
“As we embrace our new opportunities as an independent trading nation, we want to deliver lasting prosperity to the British people and free ports will be key to delivering this.”

Source: The Plymouth Herald website