Liverpool City Region Freeport officially open for business

The Liverpool City Region Freeport is officially open for business after Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove approved its full business case.

Once fully operational, it is estimated that the freeport could create more than 14,000 new highly skilled jobs, deliver £800m of investment and generate an additional £850m of GVA for the Liverpool City Region’s economy.

The region’s leaders have chosen to pursue businesses and industries that align with the values and priorities of the Combined Authority. These include innovation in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and green energy – with a particular focus on the region’s target to be net zero carbon by 2040 at the latest.

By grouping high-productivity and innovative businesses close together, the freeport can play a role in the region’s work to tackle the underlying weaknesses in the local job market such as productivity, pay and job security.

Responding to the news, Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said:

“Throughout the process, I’ve been clear that I will only use our freeport as a force for good, to help build an economy that works for everyone in our region. I want to attract investors into our area who believe in, and support, our local ambitions – those who will help us to protect workers’ rights and uphold standards, and who want to work with us to deliver regeneration and funding in the areas that need it most.

“The establishment of the Liverpool City Region Freeport has the potential to help our drive to attract international investment, create more well-paid, highly-skilled jobs for local people and build on our existing strengths and promote our international competitiveness. It is estimated that the freeport will add £850m to the local economy and contribute towards our plans to boost research and development and target green technologies to help us reach net zero by 2040 at the latest.

“But, for us, it means much more than that. I want to ensure that there is purpose behind this status that fuels greater social mobility, innovation, and inclusion for our whole region – including the integration of our Fair Employment Charter.

“Today, those plans have taken another step forward. I will be pressing for it to be up and running as soon as possible so local people and communities can begin to feel the benefits.”

John Lucy, Director of the Liverpool City Region Freeport, said:

“This is a very significant moment for the Liverpool City Region’s economy as, after a huge amount of hard work, the Freeport is now up and running.  We can now get on with the real business of creating prosperity for the people of the city region.  I’m sure that the Freeport will be transformational and I can’t wait to see it start delivering real benefits.”

Last month, SSO International in Haydock, St Helens, became the freeport’s first Customs Site Operator (CSO). A freeport customs site operator provides a secure, enclosed customs zone where some normal customs rules do not apply.  Every freeport needs at least one approved CSO to be operational.

Commenting, Chris Shirling-Rooke, Chief Executive of Mersey Maritime, said:

News that the Liverpool City Region Freeport is now officially open for business is very welcome indeed and represents a serious milestone in the evolution of this exciting project. Mersey Maritime congratulates the team on working hard to secure approval of the full business case by the Government after an intense period of activity.

As the representative body for the region’s £5billion maritime industry, we are committed to supporting initiatives that have at their heart the aspiration to drive jobs and investment and support growth in the local economy. The Liverpool City Region contains the UK’s most significant and largest west facing port which has seen major investment and expansion in recent years and although the Freeport isn’t solely focused on maritime as the scope of ambition and operations extends beyond our vitally important industry, we have long held the view that it is likely to make a significant, perhaps decisive, contribution to the ambitions and future prosperity of the region.

The prospect of creating 14,000 new highly skilled jobs, delivering £800million of investment and generating £850million of GVA for the Liverpool City Region’s economy is likely to be transformational and can’t be underestimated, not least in the context of challenging economic times nationally. We await with interest future developments and the Freeport becoming fully operational in due course and look forward to working with the team to ensure Mersey Maritime members have the opportunity to benefit as much as possible from how the project develops in the future.”

The freeport is a designated area covering 45km, where a range of economic incentives will be available, covering customs, business rates, planning, regeneration, innovation and trade and investment support. Local councils will be able to retain 100% of business rates growth generated by the freeport tax sites – located in Birkenhead, St Helens and Widnes.

Centred on a mix of infrastructure including the deep-water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool – the UK’s biggest western facing port, which already handles 45% of trade from the US –it is the key coastal access point to the UK’s largest concentration of manufacturing.

Targeting key sectors including automotive, biomanufacturing/pharmaceuticals and maritime, the freeport will support and attract new advanced manufacturing, logistics and low carbon energy industries.

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