A bid for Cumbria to become one of the UK’s first freeports has been submitted to the Government.
It is hoped, if it is successful, it will boost the county’s economy and create jobs and supply chain opportunities.
The Heart of the UK Freeport Cumbria bid has been developed by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership with Barrow Port, Carlisle Lake District Airport and the Port of Workington – and local authorities Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle and the county councils.
Freeports are designated by Government and are areas where normal tax and customs rules do not apply.
These can be airports as well as maritime ports.
Companies operating within freeports can benefit from deferring the payment of taxes until their products are moved elsewhere, or can avoid taxes altogether if they bring in goods to store or manufacture on site before exporting them again.
MPs Simon Fell, Neil Hudson, Mark Jenkinson and John Stevenson, representing the constituencies that are most likely to benefit from the proposed freeport, are also backing the bid.
The local enterprise partnership said: “Cumbria’s Freeport proposal provides a distinctive and attractive offer, being a multi-centre and multi-modal proposal, which sits at the heart of the UK, sharing a land border with Scotland and sea borders with both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
Lord Inglewood, chair of the LEP, said: “This has been developed in strong partnership with the relevant operators and local authorities, as everybody recognises the important role that the freeport could play in economy recovery and growth.
“The bid is focused on Cumbria’s unique location, literally at the heart of the UK and therefore crucial to UK connectivity.
“Our bid is novel and imaginative as it looks to tailor the benefits of a freeport in a polycentric, rural and dispersed area rather than an urban, concentrated geography. It is also built on our existing global strengths and is therefore ambitious, as well as being realistic and deliverable.
“The freeport would play an important part in delivering the priorities that we identified in Cumbria’s Local Industrial Strategy and will fully support the delivery of Restart, Reboot, Rethink, our recovery plan for the economy.
“Importantly, it will help deliver the ‘levelling up’ agenda and LEP’s inclusive growth priorities, given that the freeport operations will be concentrated in areas that would really benefit from new job opportunities.
“Clearly, the Freeport would also secure Foreign Direct Investment and grow export and supply chain opportunities.”
Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “Cumbria County Council is owner of the Port of Workington as well as the local transport authority and would be the accountable body for a successful bid.
“I’m therefore very pleased and encouraged by the speed at which we’ve been able to work together with other relevant bodies to produce this ambitious proposal.
“The potential for Cumbria is plain to see and I hope that Government will recognise the imaginative nature of the bid, linking three key transport hubs, and give it its backing.”
Mike Johnson, deputy leader of Allerdale Borough Council, said: “The Heart of the UK Freeport Cumbria bid offers a rare opportunity to stimulate economic growth whilst also contributing to the clean energy agenda.
“Portside land available at the Port of Workington and Barrow offers offshore wind companies a significant footprint for construction operations in the Irish Sea.
“Along with the established economic links between Allerdale and Carlisle, the bid is a fine example of Cumbria pulling together for the benefit of all.”
Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council, said: “Along with colleagues at the County Council, Allerdale Borough and Carlisle City councils, we’ve worked hard to ensure that this multi-modal bid works for all and demonstrates true teamwork in action.
“The Furness area already boasts an enviable reputation in the field of clean energy production with one of the world’s largest operational offshore windfarms off our coast. The freeport bid can only enhance that reputation.”
John Mallinson, leader of Carlisle City Council, said: “The bid represents an exciting opportunity to link three of the county’s premier transport hubs to provide a comprehensive offer that is big enough to enable economies of scale and significantly improve competitiveness.
“The airport would be able to offer auxiliary land capacity for some offshore wind manufacturing.
“It could also offer, by way of example, drone logistics manufacturing and services to support the offshore wind industry as well as providing the potential for just-in-time air freight.”
Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, said: “I’m delighted to support both the Government’s drive to create up to 10 freeports in the UK and Cumbria’s ambitious proposal to capitalise on the opportunities presented.
“The Heart of the UK Freeport Cumbria bid could have a transformational effect on the economy of Workington, Allerdale and Cumbria as a whole with the Port of Workington playing a pivotal role as the primary customs site.”
Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “I’m very pleased to see the way in which the private and public sectors in Cumbria have worked closely together to produce an innovative proposal that has the potential to spread benefit throughout the county.
“The Heart of the UK Freeport Cumbria bid could also greatly enhance the county’s growing reputation as a location for renewable energy production. The tax measures that come with freeport status will improve business viability and prove attractive to manufacturing and construction firms, particularly for example offshore wind developers.”
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said: “The Heart of the UK Freeport Cumbria bid is an exciting prospect and I am delighted to give my full my support to the scheme.
“The potential benefits to the whole of Cumbria are plain to see and, given the proximity of Penrith and the Eden district to Carlisle Lake District Airport in my constituency, this exciting proposal can reap economic benefits across the Borderlands region and up and down the M6 corridor.”
John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, said: “These are exciting times for both Carlisle and Cumbria as a whole. The Heart of the UK Freeport Cumbria bid would complement the development of St Cuthbert’s Garden Village to the south of Carlisle and the construction of the Carlisle Southern Link Road.
“As well as providing further economic stimulus to the Carlisle Lake District Airport, it would play its role in further strengthening connections between the city and the wider county.”