Plymouth and South Devon submit freeport business plan to Government

The outline business case for Plymouth and South Devon’s tax-break freeport has been submitted to the Government and the area is now expecting a multi-million pound bonanza.

The plans aim to create what will be called a Plymouth and South Devon Freezone, and which is hoped will unlock huge public and private sector investment and potentially create thousands of jobs.

Plymouth City Council, in partnership with South Hams District Council and Devon County Council, has submitted the business plan document to the Government following months of close working between public and private sectors to develop a case that supports local, national and international businesses to leverage the benefits of being part of the region’s only freeport.

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The Plymouth and South Devon Freezone outline business case submission focuses on the city’s high-value engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors and builds on Plymouth’s strengths in marine and defence specialisms and further develops opportunities in the space sector. It sees the area as a regional hub for trade and investment, jobs and regeneration, which will be committed to clean growth.

A freeport is a designated area within UK borders where different economic regulations apply. The Plymouth and South Devon Freezone satisfies HM Government criteria of being within a 45km radius of the port of Plymouth and as such includes three key sites at Devonport’s South Yard, Langage and Sherford.

The Government is keen to develop a highly ambitious, world-leading freeports model which will include a comprehensive package of measures, comprising tax reliefs, customs, business rates retention, planning, regeneration, innovation and trade and investment support.

Plymouth and South Devon is just one of eight proposed freeports currently in England and the only one in the South West region.

Cllr Nick Kelly, leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “The Freezone is a hugely exciting opportunity for Plymouth and the surrounding area. It will enable us to build on our existing strengths to drive economic growth across the region, unlock millions of pounds of public and private investment and allow us to build back better. All with green, clean and innovation at its heart.”

Councillor Judy Pearce, leader of South Hams District Council, said: “The Freezone outline business case submission demonstrates that by working together with our neighbours at Plymouth City Council and with Devon County Council we continue to commit to levelling up the regional economy, provide employment opportunities for local people and an innovative environment for new businesses to thrive. Cross-boundary working for the good of all.”

John Hart, Devon County Council leader, said: “Our proposals provide a unique model which has the potential to benefit local businesses and generate high quality jobs for local people.

“The investment opportunities that the Freezone offers would boost our economic growth after the pandemic and help us achieve a strong and sustainable, clean, green recovery.

“This is an excellent example of three councils cooperating together with the Government to benefit local people and local businesses.”

Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the South West LEP, said: “Plymouth and South Devon have real longevity in pioneering marine and maritime and through the Ocean Futures prospectus we have set out a forward thinking vision of research, innovation and technology transfer that delivers directly to net zero and levelling-up.

“The Plymouth and South Devon Freezone is a significant part of that vision and will specifically support key anchor maritime and low carbon businesses in the area as well as attracting new investment and jobs. We therefore really welcome this important milestone and look forward to securing a fully operational facility in 2022.”

Luxury boat maker Princess Yachts has already said it wants to build another factory in Plymouth’s freeport area so it can produce more vessels, employ more people and fulfil a US$1bn order book.

The manufacturer is considering a new production facility at its South Yard base, in Devonport, which is included in Plymouth’s Freezone area.

Adrian Bratt, director of Princess Yachts, said: “This combined Plymouth and South Devon plan continues to demonstrate how meaningful partnerships can really deliver in the levelling up agenda.

“Princess Yachts employs over 3,000 staff in the city of Plymouth and exports to over 100 countries, we are delighted to be an integral part of this project and will continue to work with Plymouth City Council and all other stakeholders to maximise the opportunities that Freezone status provides.”

Paul Foster, Babcock’s managing director at its Devonport facility, said: “The proposed Freezone aligns well with our own aspirations to support the long term prosperity of Plymouth and offers potential opportunities to work with our customer and supply chain to further grow our business and deliver wider benefits for the community.”

How to contact William Telford and Business Live

Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.

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Thousands of new jobs are anticipated to be created in the Freezone’s first few years of operation across a range of skills, trades and professions including science, engineering and logistics.

As part of a series of stakeholder events, the Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and Plymouth and South Devon Freezone are co-hosting an event for businesses on Friday, December 3. This event will be an opportunity to find out more about the Freezone, skills, the supply chain and wider benefits to the city and surrounding area for its need. The Full Business Case for the Plymouth and South Devon Freezone will be submitted in mid April 2022 and it is expected the Freezone will be launched in summer 2022.

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William TelfordBusiness Editor, Plymouth Live