MPs from all parties across the East Midlands have united to add their voices to a call for the creation of a freeport serving the region which could create up to 60,000 new jobs.
Freeports, championed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are designed to attract major domestic and international investment.
In November last year, the Government set out details of how it will create 10 new freeports across the UK to create jobs and regenerate communities.
An East Midlands bid for freeport status was submitted to the Government last Friday by a consortium led by the two Local Enterprise Partnerships that represent Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Leicester, and Leicestershire.
It has the potential to generate 60,000 new skilled jobs for the region and the heart of the UK’s clean growth ambition.
The bid centres on three main sites:
- The East Midlands Airport Gateway and Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC), located around the UK’s largest freight airport at East Midlands Airport.
- Uniper’s site at Ratcliffe on Soar, where the existing coal-fired power station will be decommissioned and replaced with a zero-carbon technology and energy hub.
- The East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP), which will become a next-generation, rail-connected business park with links to the rest of the country and beyond.
Supporting the bid, the MPs have come together to create a video which urges the Government to back the proposal.
The MPs are: Alicia Kearns, Rutland and Melton; Sarah Dines, Derbyshire Dales; , Heather Wheeler, South Derbyshire; Darren Henry, Broxtowe; Brendan Clarke-Smith, Bassetlaw; Lee Anderson, Ashfield; Lilian Greenwood, Nottingham South; Ben Bradley, Mansfield; Tom Randall, Gedling; Ruth Edwards, Rushcliffe; Mark Fletcher, Bolsover; Lee Rowley, North East Derbyshire; Luke Evans, Bosworth; Andrew Bridgen, North West Leicestershire; and Jane Hunt, Loughborough.
An East Midlands freeport would enjoy the unique intersection of air, rail and road connectivity, with links to major deep-sea ports elsewhere in the country.
If successful, the bid would play a key role in the levelling-up of the region, with the economic, environmental and employment benefits shared far beyond the freeport site.
The bid has been submitted by a consortium including private sector businesses and local authorities, with support from universities, business groups, local MPs and the proposed Midlands Engine Development Corporation.
Ruth Edwards, MP for Rushcliffe, said: “This bid would deliver the UK’s best connected and green freeport here in the heart of the East Midlands.
“It is backed by businesses and our six leading universities. It would bring investment and jobs to people in Nottinghamshire and across the region. I am delighted to have worked with so many of my colleagues to back this bid and I hope the strength of local support is clear.”
Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton said she thought that the freeport would “turbo-charge” the region’s recovery from the pandemic.
She added: “An East Midlands freeport will allow us to embrace the opportunities of global Britain. It will support our region by creating over 60,000 jobs and bolster our businesses by improving their export opportunities.
“This bid is a vote of confidence in our communities, and if successful, will help level-up the heart of our country and ensure the East Midlands leads the way in a global, and greener, Britain.”
And Mark Fletcher, MP for Bolsover, said: “The bid is a superb collaboration, bringing together local economic and parliamentary stakeholders to champion a better economic future for our region. I have been campaigning for more skilled jobs in Bolsover and our region, and our freeport bid is a huge step in the right direction.”
The three sites in the bid are designed to provide a range of employment and skills opportunities across the East Midlands and grow industrial strengths in advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics.
At its heart is the opportunity to accelerate the region’s commitment to decarbonisation and boost the area’s status as a leading innovation hub for green energy supporting small to medium businesses and large regional employers including Rolls Royce, Toyota and Bombardier.
Clare James, East Midlands Airport’s managing director, said: “We’re delighted to be part of a regional freeport bid that, if successful, could create thousands of jobs for local people. East Midlands Airport is a key regional and national gateway for Britain’s exports and imports.
“Assets like the airport will have a key role to play, especially as the country strikes trade deals around the world. As the port of entry and exit, we bring to the freeport bid, along with our road haulage and rail operating partners, the connectivity that is one of this region’s unique strengths.”
East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said the region had been highlighted “as a centre for trade” in the UK during he pandemic.
He said: “Our logistics sector has grown faster here than anywhere else in the country and the airport has played a central role in this as the country’s most important mover of international freight.
“The UK’s exit from the EU amplifies the opportunity for developing new international trade opportunities, to re-imagine supply chains and to build greater resilience in existing customer and supplier relationships with the EU and beyond. For the East Midlands this presents us with a massive opportunity.
“We already have the expertise, land, much of the necessary infrastructure and, of course, businesses – but obtaining a freeport with a focus on innovation, low carbon and trade is central to us realising that opportunity to its full extent.”
The first freeports are expected later this year, with at least 10 to be built across the whole of the UK, seven of which will be in England.
-- to www.derbytelegraph.co.uk