North East Freeport bid overlooked by Government

Industry leaders have hit out at the Government’s decision to overlook the North East’s bid for a freeport.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 10:00 am
A bid to make a North East Freeport, including the Port of Blyth, was rejected.

It had been hoped the proposals, covering Blyth, Tyneside and Sunderland would have created more than 60,000 jobs and brought in £3.4 billion to the region over ten years.

But during his budget speech last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak opted for nearby Teesside instead.

In a joint statement, Martin Lawlor, CEO of the Port of Blyth; Matt Beeton, CEO at the Port of Tyne; and Lucy Winskell OBE, CEO at North East Local Enterprise Partnership expressed their disappointment.

They said: “Despite North East England Freeport being an outstandingly strong contender and universally endorsed – by business leaders, our cross party MPs, seven local authorities, two combined authorities and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – our proposal was not among those selected.

“After four years developing the bid, we are naturally disappointed by this decision. It was a once in a generation opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people.

“Our vision for North East England Freeport was extremely ambitious. We are immensely proud of what we have achieved and the collaboration shown points to a very bright future.

"The North East England Freeport would have delivered over 60,000 more and better jobs and helped to deliver a multi-billion pound boost to the North East’s industries.

"It would have secured new opportunities for local communities that have experienced severe economic scarring and been especially badly affected by Covid-19.

“The news was not what we had all hoped for, but we must show the resolve and tenacity the North East region is renowned for and find alternatives.

"Our proposals contained some fantastic initiatives that we will look to implement irrespective of this decision and our Steering Group will explore how we can take some of these ideas forward.

"We will continue to promote our region’s industrial strengths and the target clusters of offshore wind, advanced manufacturing, automotive and digital innovation, using our world-class ports and manufacturing hubs by other means.

“On behalf of the whole team behind North East England Freeport, we thank all our supporters and those behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to make our vision a reality for their community.”

Britishvolt, who are planning to build a gigaplant producing batteries for electric cars at the former Blyth Power Station site, expressed their disappointment at the decision but said it did not deter them from coming to Cambois.

A Britishvolt spokesperson: “We are aware of the decision not to make Blyth a Freeport, at least not at this moment in time, and while it is disappointing it does not affect Britishvolt’s commitment to the North East in any way.

"It remains the ideal location to build the UK’s first battery gigaplant and we remain on track in every way to start production at scale by the end of 2023.”