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Chancellor Rishi Sunak approves Freeport East bid for Felixstowe and Harwich during Budget announcement

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A bid for Suffolk and north Essex to have a designated freeport which will create thousands of new jobs has been given the go-ahead by the government.

During Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget announcement today, he revealed that the Freeport East bid - for the Port of Felixstowe and Bathside Bay in Harwich - was one of eight locations in England which had been successful in becoming new freeports.

Freeport status means that it will operate on its own custom zone that aims to boost international trade, economic growth and business opportunities.

Felixstowe Docks. Picture by Mark Westley
Felixstowe Docks. Picture by Mark Westley

Chairman of Freeport East, George Kieffer, said he was 'delighted' that Freeport East had been chosen as one of the first new freeports in the UK for a number of years.

"Freeport East offers a unique opportunity to build a truly global trade hub at the same time as accelerating opportunities in green energy and helping level-up the economy," Mr Kieffer said.

"We look forward to working with Government to further develop our business plan and to realising the potential that this opportunity represents."

When the bid was backed by East Suffolk Council last month, it was said that it could create up to 13,500 new jobs for the area over 10 years, while it is estimated that it will deliver an additional 1.3million tonnes of international trade volume and £66.4m in gross value added.

In announcing the Port of Felixstowe and Bathside Bay in Harwich, which are both operated by Hutchison Ports, as one of the locations to secure freeport status today, Mr Sunak said: "Freeports are special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business.

"They are well established internationally, but we are taking a unique approach.

"Our freeports will have simpler planning to allow businesses to build; infrastructure funding to improve transport links; cheaper customs with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties; and lower taxes, with tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation.

"It will be an unprecedented economic boost across the United Kingdom. Freeports will be a truly UK-wide policy, and we will work constructively with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Administrations."

The successful bid was hailed as 'great news' by Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal Therese Coffey, who represents Felixstowe.

And James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, who backed the Freeport East proposal, also welcomed the news.

He said it was a 'huge boost' for the East of England and a 'vote of confidence in our future prosperity'.

“With our strong, existing links to the proposed Freeport East area – along the A14 and our freight rail links too – we are ideally placed to contribute to, and benefit from, the expansion of trade and innovation this new status will bring about," Mr Palmer added.

"In addition, it will massively strengthen the case for improvement and expansion of the Ely Railway Junction and further upgrades to the A14.

"This is a launchpad for the future, for investment, and the most joined-up regional growth in many generations.”

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