East Midlands Freeport could kickstart ‘Great British Green Revolution’

One of the Freeports will be established near East Midlands Airpoirt

A decision on whether the East Midlands will be home to a freeport is expected on March 10.

While, the Humber freeport bid is a more traditional offer, a bid submitted by a consortium including private sector businesses and local authorities, with support from universities, business groups, local MP’s and the proposed Midlands Engine Development Corporation. could see a unique inland facility based around East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC) in North West Leicestershire, Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station site in Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) in South Derbyshire.

If approved, it could create 60,000 jobs for the region. TheBusinessDesk.com’s landmark Invest Midlands all-day conference in May will feature a dedicated session on Freeports with high profile speakers, should the bid be successful.

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.

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.”

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 (EMA) is a key regional and national gateway for Britain’s exports and imports.

“Assets like EMA will have a key role to play in helping the Government fulfil its ambition of a ‘global Britain’ 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.”

Dave Johnson, sites manager, Uniper, said: “Uniper sees a clear opportunity for the region by combining the Ratcliffe-on-Soar site with the EMAGIC and EMIP sites in an inland Freeport promising, manufacturing based growth connecting the East Midlands and UK businesses to global markets.”

East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles, said: “The disruption the pandemic has brought has highlighted the importance of the East Midlands as a centre for trade in the UK. 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 reimagine 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.”