‘Another string in bow’ as Government signs off major East Midlands Freeport plans

Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

The official sign-off for plans to create an East Midlands Freeport has been hailed as “another string in the bow” to make the region attractive to investors.

The Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) confirmed the freeport plans have been approved on Thursday (March 30).

The freeport project involves giving three sites across the region special tax incentives to encourage economic growth and development.

This creates low or zero-tax areas to allow businesses to import and export while avoiding tariffs and reducing red tape.

The three areas, known as ‘tax sites’, cover the freeport’s planned bases at East Midlands Airport, Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station and the East Midlands Intermodal Park in Derbyshire.

The main objectives of the freeport include growth in advanced manufacturing and logistics and a “turbocharging” of net-zero targets.

It is hoped the benefits will attract new “high-value, low-carbon” investments.

East Midlands Airport

Estimates last year suggested about 61,000 jobs could be created off the back of the project – including about 28,000 directly at the three sites.

The Government has confirmed it has given official sign-off for the plans to come forward and for the three sites to begin operating as tax zones. There will also be up to £25m in initial funding.

The Government says the plans will “encourage investment” and “generate thousands of jobs” to boost the regional economy.

And Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), Nottinghamshire County Council’s leader and Mansfield’s MP, says the announcement is a big boost for the region.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It means we will be able to start to take full advantage of the incentives for businesses in the freeport areas, which is great.

Cllr Ben Bradley at East Midlands Parkway railway station, next to Ratcliffe on Soar power station.

“It also means across the board, with our big flagship regional policies like freeport, devolution, the development company or STEP fusion, they’re all progressing and we’re cracking on.

“It’s another string to our bow in terms of making the East Midlands a really attractive place to come and invest your money.”

The announcement came on the same day the Conservative-led county council signed off on plans for the region’s £1.14bn devolution deal.

This will bring more powers and funding to local leaders on areas like transport, planning, education and skills and housing and draw cash directly into local budgets.

The authority was the last out of Nottingham, Derby and Derbyshire councils to sign off on the plan, which will now be submitted to ministers.

“It would suggest a level of coordination that I don’t think existed but I do think it’s very poetic that they’ve been ticked off on the same day,” Cllr Bradley added.

“As a package, across the region, we’re talking £25-30bn of investment and huge economic growth that is really meaningful.

“There are life-changing jobs and education in this and, taking all things together really big steps.”

Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station
Photo: Alan Murray-Rust CC BY-SA 2.0

As part of the freeport plans, Ratcliffe on Soar power station is due to become a “hub for clean energy” once it’s decommissioned later this decade.

And jobs touted for the three sites would boost industries including manufacturing, construction, distribution, logistics, transport, clean energy and aviation.

Loughborough-based company Intelligent Energy already has plans to develop a renewable energy Hydrogen Gigafactory at the site, leading to the creation of up to 1,000 skilled jobs.

The company has also committed to bringing its supply chain with it, including thousands more jobs and making the region a “powerhouse for green manufacturing”.

The freeport plans have been given cross-party backing by Labour and Conservative politicians and councils.

Cllr Kate Foale, leader of the Labour Group at County Hall, previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are pro-jobs, pro-investment, and pro-business growth in Nottinghamshire.”

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