New Forest District Council

Solent Freeport update from New Forest District Council

We have confirmed our support to the next phase of the Solent Freeport at our Extraordinary Council meeting on 21 March 2022, ahead of the full business case going to government for final sign-off.

The Solent Freeport is one of 8 announced by the government at the March 2021 Budget.

A Freeport is an area that has special conditions and exemptions applied to it which create additional economic activity. 

These include exemptions from certain government tariffs and duties on goods from abroad, and companies based in Freeports are able to access certain tax benefits.

The objectives of the Solent Freeport include establishing the area as a hub for global trade and investment, to promote productivity and regeneration, and to create jobs.  The freeport also aims to create centres of innovation and skills, pioneer approaches to climate change adaption and decarbonisation, and accelerate the transition to a “Net Zero” economy.

For the New Forest District area, there are four major land areas included within the Southampton Water Freeport Tax Site., including Marchwood Port and Fawley Waterside.

Cllr Jill Cleary, Deputy Leader, said, “The special conditions of the Solent Freeport make doing business in our area an attractive proposition with real gains in terms of employment and prosperity.  The sites will deliver additional employment in the district, and having Freeport status will accelerate the rate at which that happens.     

“Our corporate plan has ‘a sustainable and prosperous New Forest and putting our community first’ as a key aim.  The establishment of the Solent Freeport contributes to this as it will provide a hub for global trade and investment, promoting regeneration and job creation, and an area where innovation will thrive.

“Our focus is on realising those local benefits and we are working with the colleges and other partners to connect local people with the opportunities the Solent Freeport will bring. Giving greater opportunity to our residents and young people to access sustainable employment, opportunities like apprenticeships, work placements, and training.”

Freeports allow for Business Rates to be retained in a local area. Currently, NFDC keep £6m of the £72m it collects in Business Rates, with the rest being redistributed by government.

The Freeport enables 100% of business rates from within the Freeport Tax Sites to be kept in the local area, to be used to deliver key projects which align to the Freeport objectives. The Full Business Case forecasts this could be in excess of £500m across the 4 tax sites over a 25 year period.

Cllr Cleary said, “We welcome this opportunity to secure additional funding that will be invested in the objectives of the Freeport, so will enable planned growth to be brought forwards more quickly. The Government are providing £25m seed-funding and we are delighted that this will include £4.6m for site costs and infrastructure for Fawley Waterside and £4.4m for site remediation at Marchwood Port.”