The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd. (LLEP) in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Partnership for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2), are reaffirming their full support of the UK government’s ‘Freeport’ policy.
Both Local Enterprise Partnerships worked together and submitted their response to the Freeports Consultation paper published earlier this year. They are now lobbying Government to make East Midlands Airport one of 10 Freeport zones in the UK.
Freeports offer fantastic benefits including no tariffs, import VAT or excise paid on goods from overseas unless they leave the Freeport to enter the UK’s domestic market. A Freeport at East Midlands Airport could offer a unique opportunity to encourage inward investment and create high value jobs through a combination of financial incentives, customs benefits and a simplified planning process.
The benefits of a Freeport to Leicestershire could be enormous, with up to 40,000 new jobs created as infrastructure projects get underway and businesses are attracted to the region. The LLEP is determined to ensure that the world-class logistics infrastructure that can already be found in Leicestershire, is at the centre of the government’s thinking as it puts its plans for UK Freeports into action.
The plans include the creation of a centre for innovation, where ideas are tested and assessed before being deployed across the country. These may include low carbon infrastructure projects, as the UK aims to achieve its goal of net zero emissions.
East Midlands Airport (EMA) is already a major trade hub, the UK’s busiest pure-freight airport, with over 1,000 tonnes of cargo passing through every day. Since the onset of Covid-19 the airport continued to operate 60% of its scheduled flights. Unlike most airports, however, the aircraft operating out of EMA were filled with products rather than people. The airport is supported by excellent road and rail links, with over 90% of the country accessible within a four-hour drive.
It is for these reasons that many internationally renowned logistics companies including DHL, UPS and FedEx base themselves in Leicestershire already, and why the region is known as the logistics “Golden Triangle”, making it an ideal location for a Freeport.
The LLEP believes that a Freeport based in the region will provide major benefits not only to Leicestershire, but to both the wider East Midlands and the UK as a whole. It would enhance the UK’s access to global markets and increase the possibilities for fast, frictionless trade as the UK leaves the European Union.
Other benefits of a potential Freeport in Leicestershire include the regeneration of the region as major investments are made in its infrastructure. A further potential benefit identified by the LLEP is additional jobs and increased economic activity around the new Freeport created through locally coordinated infrastructure planning.
For example, businesses that operate in the Freeport zone will require access to first rate utilities, including the latest superfast broadband. Industrial-scale utility infrastructure has the potential to attract high-tech manufacturers, which could catalyse the adoption of low-carbon technologies and electric vehicles.
The wider effects of such infrastructural improvements would include a major increase in jobs in the region. Connectivity with the HS2 high-speed rail initiative would further consolidate the region’s transport links.
Kevin Harris is Chair of the LLEP Board of Directors. He said:
“The government’s Freeport Policy is an exciting opportunity for Leicestershire and the wider East midlands. Our region’s expertise in the field of logistics puts us in an enviable position to make a success of the policy, and build on our already world-class infrastructure.
“At the LLEP, we’re incredibly keen to ensure that a Freeport not only comes to our region, but acts as a catalyst for business, jobs, and a green revolution. Our aim is to make Leicestershire a hub for global trade, low-carbon businesses and high-value jobs.”
The LLEP is working in partnership towards this goal with its neighbouring Local Enterprise Partnership at D2N2 and the Midlands Engine.”
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