A decision on the unique inland Freeport bid, submitted by the LLEP and D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnerships on 5 February 2021, is expected imminently. The LLEP and key stakeholders, including local authorities and businesses, are excited about the economic growth opportunities the bid could bring to Leicestershire.
In response to the Government’s Freeport prospectus, Leicestershire joined regional partners to put forward a compelling proposition, making use of existing expertise and facilities. The bid is based around Leicestershire’s East Midlands Airport and two other strategic sites in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Leicestershire offers key strengths in advanced manufacturing with specialisms including transport technology, life-sciences, pharmaceutical, energy, and low-carbon technology and an East Midlands Freeport will capitalise on these strengths.
The primary airport site is the only one located within a four-hour drive of all the nation’s maritime ports. East Midlands Airport is already the UK’s leading cargo airport and is fully integrated with the East Midlands Gateway logistics hub, making it an optimal choice for the location of a Freeport.
Kevin Harris is Chair of the LLEP board of Directors. He said: “The size and scale of the opportunity around the East Midlands Freeport bid cannot be understated. There is strong support for this bid from business leaders and our elite academic institutions, who see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to supercharge the local economy. By broadening the region’s economic base with new industries and technological advances, it will be less susceptible in future to economic shocks.
“There is significant room for growth across the sites, and the innovation, regeneration, and workforce skills that the project would provide have the potential for transformational change in our region.
“We want Leicester and Leicestershire to be at the heart of a Great British Green Revolution. This bid will accelerate the East Midlands’ commitment to decarbonisation and deliver the fastest turnaround towards the 10-point Green Plan for Growth in the country, helping the UK to meet its targets for net-zero carbon emissions.”
The LLEP sought the views of other partners involved with bid, to hear their thoughts on what an East Midlands Freeport would mean for Leicester and Leicestershire.
Councillor Richard Blunt, Leader of North West Leicestershire District Council gave his view of what a Freeport would mean.
“A Freeport in the East Midlands is a really exciting opportunity for North West Leicestershire, with huge potential to support the economic recovery and growth of the area while maximising our collective potential.
“How we rebuild our local economy after the Covid-19 pandemic will be key to the long-term prosperity of our district, so to see the plans for the Freeport advancing while understanding the growth and jobs this would bring, is a real positive.
“North West Leicestershire is proud to be a green district with ambitious Zero Carbon plans and it’s good to see the freeport bid also acknowledge its desire to be forward thinking in its decarbonisation and green ambitions.
“As the local planning authority, North West Leicestershire District Council will take a key role in determining future planning applications for the freeport and so we keep an open mind on the proposals and look forward to seeing them develop.”
Andrew Bridgen, Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire, added: “Freeport status would drive growth in the region’s economy, increase job opportunities, drive international trade and investment as well as improve infrastructure.’
‘Leaving the EU creates new opportunities for the UK to strengthen the Union and become a hub for international trade and investment. Revitalising our port regions through an ambitious Freeport policy is a key component of realising this vision and unlocking the deep potential of regions such as the East Midlands. Freeports will increase trade, create employment and attract investment in order to form innovative business clusters that benefit local areas.’
‘We have the perfect logistical position for a Freeport with the Airport supported by the East Midlands Gateway and superb road links both North to South and East to West. The Airport is already a major trade hub, the UK’s busiest pure-freight airport, with more than 1,000 tonnes of cargo passing through every day and there is scope to at least treble that.’
Cllr Jonathan Morgan, Leader of Charnwood Borough Council and LLEP Board Director commented from the Charnwood district perspective. He said: “I am pleased to support the Freeport bid as it has the potential to create thousands of jobs and bring huge investment to the area.
“The East Midlands is at the heart of the country and has excellent transport links to the rest of the nation, and the world. It means we are ideally situated to be a Freeport and help boost the local and national economy, particularly as we recover from the pandemic.
“It’s also a great opportunity for Charnwood thanks to our central location between the three regional major cities and existing global reputation for innovation.”
Jane Hunt, Member of Parliament for Loughborough, said: “The East Midlands Freeport is a hugely exciting prospect for Loughborough and will deliver high-quality employment locally.
“We are uniquely placed to make the most of the opportunities that the Freeport has to offer, with Loughborough being the home to a world-class university and sites such as the Charnwood Campus, Sportpark and the Science and Enterprise Park. Shepshed is also home to animal feeds and medications industries, which will also benefit from the Freeport. That is why I fully support the East Midlands Freeport bid.”
Finally, Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, gave his perspective and said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put the East Midlands firmly on the map. By creating thousands of much-needed jobs and boosting skills, it would greatly help to support our economy recover after the pandemic.
“We are proud to be a green council. And importantly, the freeport would not only advance the region’s pioneering work in green technologies, but also accelerate our commitment to decarbonisation.
“Policies to boost growth and jobs are very welcome and we call on the Chancellor to make sure that this isn’t at the cost of the infrastructure needed to support it.”