A full business case for the Plymouth tax relief freeport is due to be submitted to the government in April, outlining how it aims to create 3,500 jobs and inject £400m into the region’s economy. The Plymouth and South Devon Freeport is expected to provide thousands of direct jobs for Plymouth, Devon and the South Hams and see £100m invested in its first two years.

This article explains here what it is and what it will mean for Plymouth. It aims to highlight land for development that would otherwise have taken years longer, to welcome new businesses to the region and to attract foreign direct investment opportunities. By securing investment in innovation, skills, research and development, it aims to enable Plymouth to develop a global reach, whilst supporting its commitment to clean growth and zero carbon footprint.

A freeport is a designated area within the borders of the United Kingdom where different economic regulations apply, encompassing tax breaks, customs benefits, retention of trade tariffs, planning, regeneration, innovation and trade and investment support. Three key sites in and around Plymouth have been designated to form part of the Freeport, providing over 130 hectares of land.

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They are:

  • South Yard – in addition to the existing Oceansgate complex, this area will be further developed as a “tax site” and will include a new innovation hub, mobility hub and new factory developments.

  • Language – developed as a “fiscal site” with a customs area inside and space for light industrial units for high-value engineering and manufacturing. The focus will be on the navy, defense and space. The site also includes proposals for a green hydrogen electrolyser plant.

  • Sherford – developed as a logistics hub with a tax and customs border with bonded warehouse and engineering space.

Existing businesses can apply if they can prove that locating in the Freeport would help them expand and generate economic growth, provided their projects cannot be adapted to their current location. They can also expect to benefit from the growth in local demand for services and supplies generated by the Freeport.

The total capital investment in the Freeport is expected to reach £31 million. This consists of £25m seed capital grant from the government and locally matches £29m. A further £10m will be raised through revenue from the leveling up grants and the total private sector investment is expected to be around £247m. Public and private sector organisations, including Babcock International, Princess Yachts, Langage Energy Park Ltd, the Heart of the South West LEP, the universities of Plymouth and Exeter, the Ministry of Defense and port operators, have worked in close collaboration to finalize the full business case. .

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The three councils involved in the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport – Plymouth City Council, Devon County Council and South Hams District Council – are now due to meet to consider the full business case before his submission. The Freeport should see:

  • 3,584 direct jobs created with an average wage of at least £13.92 per hour

  • 10% of jobs created will be filled by inactive applicants and registered unemployed

  • 3,000 m² of skills infrastructure

  • 2,400 m² of new innovation space

  • 137.9 hectares of landscaped grounds

  • Five new companies each year

  • Two to three new foreign direct investments each year

  • 40 business/higher education collaborations per year from 2022

  • £4 million a year of private investment in research and development

  • 10 new products developed for the market.

The Cabinet of Plymouth City Council is asked to delegate authority to the Leader of Council to give final approval to the full business case. After successful submission to the government in April, the freeport is expected to become operational in the summer of 2022.

Nick Kelly, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “We are just one of eight areas to gain Freeport status and we see this as a brilliant catalyst for building back better and driving economic growth. It is also a chance to show our strengths in the navy and defense sectors to the rest of the country, to the world, and to support the growing space sector.

“We have the commitment of some of our largest local employers, including Babcock and Princess Yachts, as key partners in the Freeport. Additionally, the Freeport is also about the long-term development prospects of our future workers, ensuring that there are excellent job prospects for the workforce of tomorrow.

Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “The Freeport is a great example of local authorities working together across borders to deliver long-term benefits to the whole region. Together, we aim to secure the Freeport to provide more jobs, opportunities, skills where needed, foster innovation and capitalize on our strengths. Ensuring that current and future generations of the workforce can secure successful careers has never been more important.

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