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Thames freeports ‘must put people first’

[ September 24, 2020   //   ]

The Thames Estuary Growth Board says that the needs of residents should be put first in its guiding principles for freeport proposals in the region, published on 24 September.
Freeports have different customs rules to the rest of the country and offer wider benefits for businesses such as planning reforms, funding for infrastructure improvements and innovation incentives.
Plans have been unveiled by the government for ten such locations in the UK, with successful applicants due to be announced in autumn. The aim is for freeports to become innovative hubs, boost global trade, attract inward investment and increase productivity. Board leader and estuary envoy, Kate Willard, said: “The Thames Estuary is well placed to become one of ten freeports proposed for the UK. The freeport will generate jobs and opportunities for the whole area, benefitting communities along the Estuary that need it most.”
However, the proposals must align with The Green Blue action plan recently announced by the Board if they are to truly maximise the benefits, potential and opportunities within the Estuary.
Proposals need to demonstrate how freeport status would improve productivity, employment opportunities, boost trade, improve skill levels and overall prosperity across the Thames Estuary, and how it would support the Growth Board ambitions of £115bn economic activity by 2050.
Proposals must show the public and private investment that freeport status would draw to the Estuary. This includes the physical and digital infrastructure needed and how investment will support wider issues such as housing.
They must drive innovation and address wider issues such as climate change. Innovative approaches to training and development must be detailed and ensure that benefits are felt locally. Proposals must show how they will work with local communities to support access to training, how they will raise awareness of opportunities and have a positive impact on a range of outcomes for local communities.