Freeport would be ‘fantastic news’ for Merseyside

A bid for freeport status is about to be submitted by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in a plan that could add £739m to the local economy. Tony McDonough reports

A freeport could transform the city region economy. Picture by Tony McDonough


Liverpool city region could enhance its appeal as a “national hub for global trade and investment” if its bid for freeport status is accepted by the Government.

Last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak invited bids from across the UK to establish at least 10 freeports to accelerate the UK’s post-Brexit economic growth. Now Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has agreed to launch a bid to bring a freeport to Merseyside.

And Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief of executive of Mersey Maritime, the representative body of the city region’s £4bn maritime sector said the bid was “fantastic news for the whole region”.

Freeports are designated zones where normal tax and customs rules do not apply. These can be airports or other hubs as well as maritime ports. At a freeport, imports can enter with simplified customs documentation and without paying tariffs.

The Port of Liverpool had freeport status until 2012 when they were abolished by the coalition Government. Locally, the idea has the support of Port of Liverpool owner, Peel Ports, as well as Mersey Maritime.

Mr Shirling-Rooke added: “The opportunity to create thousands of local jobs using our centuries old gateway to the world, the Mersey, offers much needed stability during very destabilising times.

“There is no better opportunity to attract new companies and individuals with new innovative ideas to move into our coastal community, creating the growth and prosperity we all want and deserve.”

A report by consultancy Mace in 2019 estimated a freeport could add £739m to Liverpool city region’s economy every year – equivalent to £1,500 for every household – and would see the creation of 12,000 high-value jobs.

Earlier this month, a study carried out by property consultancy Avison Young said Liverpool city region freeport could be a key driver of the recovery of the local economy following the COVID-19 pandemic

Core sectors for an LCR Freeport would be automotive, biomanufacturing and chemicals, which are strong features of the region’s economy. It is proposed that freeport management teams could be located in a new Freeport Management Centre, with three separate Freeport Tax Sites at Wirral Waters, Parkside in St Helens, and the 3MG multimodal facility at Widnes.

The combined authority has been working with a wide range of public and private partners, including Peel Ports, as well as logistics, freight and manufacturing companies, FE colleges and universities, to take the bid process forward.

It will learn whether it has been successful in its bid at the time of the March Budget. If so, it said it will move forward to the next stage of developing a freeport with the Government. All freeports are expected to be established by the end of the year.

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