Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as the Solent Freeport announced as one of UK’s first

The Solent Freeport has today been announced as one of the first UK Freeports to be fully approved by Government.

Brian Johnson, Chair of the Solent Freeport, said: “This is the news we’ve been looking forward to and I’m grateful to our partners across the public and private sectors for their commitment and vision in bringing about a freeport for the Solent which will benefit our communities for generations to come. The strong business case we put forward, achieved through collaboration and partnership working, led by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership particularly in the set-up phase, has resulted in the Solent Freeport being one of the first officially designated by Government.

“The Solent Freeport really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity – an investment in our future which will ensure local people benefit from job creation and increased prosperity, regenerating our communities.”

Levelling Up Minister Dehenna Davison said: “Today is a historic day for many port towns and coastal communities, as the Solent Freeport takes flight.

“This Freeport is going to give local economies a shot in the arm and unlock a new state of the art business space and create tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs.

“We are maximising the opportunities of leaving the European Union to drive growth and throw our doors open to trade with the world.”

The announcement follows formal Government designation of the tax sites within the Solent Freeport, where investment is underway. Tax sites offer occupiers business rates relief and other incentives to support capital investment, skills and employment. Business rates growth generated at the tax sites can be retained locally and reinvested in the area.

Designation of the Solent Freeport announced today will help accelerate and enhance investment already underway at key locations including:

• A package of investments at the ABP Port of Southampton to enhance operational efficiency and capacity including new warehouse and distribution units; additional container storage areas; new HGV driver welfare facilities; improved marine access as well as enhanced rail provision to support businesses right across the UK.

• New 500,000 sq. ft of business space at Navigator Quarter, adjacent to the runway at Southampton Airport, and part of a 75-acre site as part of the Solent Freeport. The project is being delivered by AGS Airports Ltd in partnership with blocwork, a Network Rail JV Company, and expected to be completed in 2024. Navigator Quarter site is ideally placed to benefit from excellent air, road, sea and rail connectivity. Phase 1 will deliver over £120m GVA to the UK economy.

• Construction is underway to deliver three new Grade A specification buildings at Dunsbury Park, a 100-acre business park within the Solent Freeport already home to the global headquarters of several international companies. The new build units range from 19,000 sq ft – 33,000 sq ft. of industrial and manufacturing space and will be ready for occupation by summer 2023. They will target the highest environmental standards with a BREEAM Excellent rating, providing rainwater harvesting, EV charging and PV panels. In addition to the buildings under construction, Dunsbury Park can offer pre-let opportunity to businesses ranging from 24,000 sq ft – 200,000 sq ft.

The Solent’s ambitious bid for Freeport status was one of eight in England shortlisted by Government in the Spring 2021 budget. As an important part of the UK’s economic recovery, freeports are areas that benefit from incentives to encourage economic activity.

Brian Johnson continued: “The Solent Freeport will bring opportunities throughout our region and, most importantly, to our young people. We will see investment in high quality employment and state-of-the-art growth sectors while partnerships with our three world-class universities and research assets are set to catalyse an innovation revolution in maritime, autonomy and green growth. We will continue to work with partners on any future incentives that have the potential to unlock investment and create jobs and prosperity in the Solent.”

The Solent Freeport is a widely supported proposal which will transform Solent productivity, create more than 15,000 jobs in the Solent and a further 15,000 throughout the UK. It is expected that the Solent Freeport will attract £1.35 billion private sector investment in the area, and because of the Solent’s existing trading links, an additional £1.75 billion GVA is forecast to be generated for the UK as a whole.