As those who attended last night’s session, either in person or via YouTube, will know, we empty-chaired representation from the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport. Towards the end of the session, a Liberal Democrat councillor pointed out that an official response had been sent at 15:50 on the day of the event , which started at 19:00. By then, we were deep into preparation and not much interested in checking emails, understandably enough.
We are reproducing the Freeport’s response here. It was a great shame they did not see fit to make these points in person and address any questions that would almost certainly been asked of them.
An article on the event will follow. Many apologies for the technical issues. It was quite a tech challenge to patch in a remote speaker who was on zoom, listening on WhatsApp and being broadcast on YouTube! The team did a great job in the circumstances (and an unheated church!) Next time, we’ll have solutions for the unexpected complications. In the meanwhile, here is the statement copied and pasted from the original PDF which you can access here:
West Country Voices event – Friday 17th November
PASD Freeport Company response to key questions to be considered (based on event summary)
What exactly is a Freeport?
Countries around the world have adopted Freeports or other kinds of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
The UK government has worked in partnership with ports, businesses, local authorities, and wider
stakeholders through a public consultation (Freeport bidding prospectus
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/freeports-bidding-prospectus) to develop a highly
ambitious, world leading Freeports model for the UK.
UK Freeports are designated areas within the UK’s borders where different economic regulations
apply to encourage investment, infrastructure and innovation to the area. Tax sites benefits unlock
new investment and otherwise difficult developments, and custom site benefits will increase
Whilst UK Freeports are able to offer additional tax benefits and customs incentives within clearly
defined sites and boundaries, there is no dilution of employment legislation in UK Freeports and,
aside from the tax and customs benefits, UK Freeport areas are subject to the same legislation and
regulations as the rest of the country.
These sites have been carefully selected for their suitability for development by local authorities and
private partners/landowners and sit within an outer boundary, which represents the geographical
location within which the benefits of Freeports are targeted and does not in itself confer any other
UK Freeports have three strategic objectives:
• To be national hubs for global trade and investment
• To be hotbeds of innovation
• To promote regeneration
Why does the Plymouth and South Devon freeport encompass such a large area, including
The Freeport bidding prospectus required an outer boundary to be defined for all Freeports with a
clear economic rationale – this had a pass/fail criteria. The government expected proposals to be
focused primarily on land assembly, site remediation, and small-scale transport infrastructure to
connect sites within the Freeport to each other, the travel to work area or other economic assets
within the outer boundary – creating a defined area that is expected to benefit most directly from
the Freeport’s economic impacts. Freeport policy allowed for the creation of three tax sites within
the outer boundary. The three discrete sites that have been designated within Plymouth and South
Devon (PASD) Freeport are shown here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maps-ofplymouth-and-south-devon-freeport-tax-sites
Government required Freeports to be developed at pace and encouraged bidders to consider the use
of Local Development Orders (LDOs). The three Local Authority members (Plymouth City Council,
South Hams District Council and Devon County Council) did not wish to pursue this option for the
PASD Freeport because the Joint Local Plan https://www.southhams.gov.uk/your-council/councilplans-policies-and-reports/policies/planning-policies/plymouth-and-south-west is already in place
which had previously been consulted on extensively and had been signed off through the democratic
processes of each Local Authority (LA). The Freeport’s outer boundary is aligned to the Plymouth and
South West Devon Joint Local Plan.
As highlighted above, Freeport policy allowed for the creation of three tax sites and the chosen sites
all aligned with provisions that had already been set out within the Joint Local Plan. The PASD
Freeport outer boundary was therefore drawn to reflect the geographic boundary of the Joint Local
Plan, giving it a coherent economic rationale. As LA members chose to reject the use of an LDO, all
PASD Freeport developments will still be subject to the usual planning permissions as determined by
The three PASD Freeport tax sites (South Yard, Langage and Sherford) have already been designated
in agreement with HMRC and current policy does not allow them to be expanded nor additional tax
sites added. Additional secure, enclosed customs sites could still be designated, subject to separate
HMRC agreement in accordance with their strict security measures, within the outer boundary, but
this would only be the case if there was a clear business need to do so and such a development
would typically (though not exclusively) come forward on the business’s own existing footprint. In
any event, this would require the business to submit a planning application in the usual manner
which would have no preferential treatment because of Freeport status.
The outer boundary does not confer any special planning or regulatory status (and does not
undermine the special status of protected landscapes such as National Parks and AONBs) and Local
Authorities within it retain all their statutory powers and responsibilities, including responsibility for
providing planning permission.
What opportunities and threats does it present for our region?
PASD Freeport status has secured £25 million of national Government funding to unlock
infrastructure development of the three sites. This seed capital funding, in addition to match funding
from local authorities and the private sector, will enable further investment, growth and a more
resilient, sustainable and productive future for the area.
The Freeport will support green/blue jobs, skills, training and apprenticeship opportunities,
command higher value wages and salaries and provide pathways for people within the core sectors
whilst also supporting the local supply chain. It will create new jobs for local people at all levels and
will be a key tool for ensuring that people living and working in Plymouth, South Hams and the wider
area have access to both entry level and higher skilled/better paid jobs.
Based on the three core objectives for the UK Freeports programme, indicative outputs for the PASD
Freeport (based on modelling as part of the Full Business Case) include:
As national hubs for global trade and investment:
• new businesses trading through the Freeport tax sites
• new FDI attracted to the Freeport
• multi-million-pound additional trade throughput
• increase in value and volume of cargo through the Port of Plymouth by 2046
As promoting regeneration and job creation:
• 88.3 hectares of land developed
• Over 3,500 new jobs created
• Multi million private sector investment in buildings and development on our three sites (based on
• Approx. 50 people upskilled, gaining qualifications (through aligned activity) per year
• Approx. 10% of jobs filled by inactive claimants and registered unemployed
• 3,000 Sqm of skills infrastructure (Marine Skills Academy)
As creating hotbeds of innovation with a strong zero carbon focus:
• new innovation centre;
and an innovation service delivering:
• business diagnostics
• multi million private R&D investment
• new to market and new to firm products, and patents filed
• Collaborative business/academic projects including KTPs, industrial PhDs and large-scale
The PASD Freeport provides a unique opportunity to drive:
• Physical regeneration – by delivering infrastructure to unlock key employment sites and innovation
assets, supporting business clustering and clean growth opportunities;
• Economic regeneration – by delivering inward investment, supply chain opportunities and
productivity gains within identified growth sectors; and,
• Social regeneration – by delivering a pipeline of jobs across the spectrum of employment from
entry level to higher skilled/high value with upskilling opportunities.
A report on the event will follow.