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Business case for East Midlands Freeport goes to Government next week

Freeports exist as low or zero-tax zones, supporting businesses to import and export while avoiding tariffs or barriers.

The outline business case to create a freeport in the East Midlands – creating almost 60,000 overall jobs – will be submitted to the Government next week.

It comes as part of a Westminster plan to create several freeport sites in the UK, with the East Midlands invited to put forward a bid this year.

Supporters say it could boost economic growth within the East Midlands, improving the export potential for companies and the region’s connectivity to the rest of the UK and overseas.

But concerns have been raised over potential tax loopholes, as well as businesses relocating to freeport sites and “displacing” jobs from other communities.

The outline business plan, supported by various East Midlands organisations including councils, universities and local enterprise partnerships, will be submitted on September 10.

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The full plan will then be submitted to the Government in November.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s policy committee reviewed the outline document behind closed doors on Thursday (September 2), with papers containing some “financially-sensitive information”.

But it was previously reported that nearly 60,000 jobs could be created by the scheme, whilst helping to boost the East Midlands’ economy.

These jobs, councillors insisted on Thursday, would be new roles rather than moved in from other parts of the region.

Three anchor sites have been outlined for the freeport project, including Uniper’s zero-carbon technology and energy hub, at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

This comes alongside freight infrastructure at East Midlands Airport and a new Gateway and Industrial Cluster, and the East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) rail-connected business site, off the A50 and A38 in Derbyshire.

The scheme is indirectly linked to existing projects within the East Midlands, including HS2’s potential eastern leg hub at Toton and surrounding infrastructure plans.

Doubts were cast last month over the future of HS2, with reports a Government insider suggested the eastern leg could be shelved indefinitely due to mounting costs.

The Government insists no decision has been made and say the Integrated Rail Plan, published later this month, will inform any final word on the project.

Ben Bradley, County Council Leader and Mansfield Conservative MP, told the policy committee meeting: “The two [freeport and HS2] are loosely aligned, one would benefit the other, but they are not dependent on each other.”

It is hoped the overall freeport project will improve access to higher-skilled employment, boosting the wider region by upskilling the workforce, increasing productivity and creating a “hotbed” for innovation.

Penny Coates, independent chair of the East Midlands Freeport Board, added: “The outline business case is a confidential and internal document that forms part of the Government’s Freeport scrutiny process and currently remains in draft form.

“The East Midlands Freeport aims to create a national hub in the region for global trade and investment, promote regeneration and job creation and create a hotbed for innovation.”

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