I am delighted that the Government has approved a freeport at East Midlands Airport.
The impact of the freeport is immense for the whole of the East Midlands, but is of particular importance to Loughborough. Not only will the impact be seen in the basic mechanics of what a freeport does - to act as a customs hub for imports and exports - but it will act as a magnet for inward investment and business expansion.
While jobs and growth will be focused in the M1 corridor in and around the actual freeport site, it will also attract business to Loughborough to reap the benefits of being situated close to a freeport where raw materials arrive, whilst moving to sites ready to go at Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park and Charnwood Campus.
We were only successful in our bid for a freeport due to the joint working and tireless campaigning of local stakeholders. My own work on furthering this bid included:
- Attending many meetings with local stakeholders, including Leicestershire County Council, Charnwood Borough Council, East Midlands Airport, East Midlands Chamber, Midlands Engine, Charnwood Campus, Loughborough University, Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) and local businesses about the benefits of bidding for a freeport
- Writing to the Secretary of State for International Trade in favour of a local freeport
- Meeting with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and other local MPs and stakeholders
- Meeting with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury with other local MPs
- Writing a letter of support for the LLEP’s bid and participating in a video
- Liaising with the Government to get Charnwood Campus designated as customs site as part of the freeport
- Speaking in the budget debate and encouraging businesses thinking of expanding or starting up in Leicestershire due to the freeport to consider doing so in Loughborough
- Speaking in the Finance (No. 2) Bill debate on the importance of a freeport to Loughborough
- Speaking in the Westminster Hall debate on the East Midlands economy about how the freeport will create a highly skilled ecosystem in the area
Since the freeport was approved, I have been following its implementation closely and remain in dialogue with stakeholders.
As part of these discussions, a number of concerns have been raised about the 5 year period for claiming tax relief in a freeport and so I have written to the Minister for Levelling Up asking whether the deadline can be extended to give businesses more time to establish themselves and still benefit from the relief. This will ensure there are no barriers to business start-up and growth.
I have also met with East Midlands Freeport to hear their updates, plans and longer term aims and plan to meet with them regularly going forward to ensure the continued success of the freeport.