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£2 billion Solent Freeport bid backed by Council

A bid to create a regional Freeport, that would include a site next to Southampton Airport, has received the backing of Eastleigh Borough Council.

The Cabinet meeting on Monday unanimously confirmed its support for the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) bid to Government that could create three locations in the region with Freeport status. The LEP and its partners estimate that a Solent Freeport would bring 50,000 jobs and around £2 billion in new investment to the area.

Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Councillor Keith House said: “The creation of a Solent Freeport would bring significant benefits to our local economy, post-COVID, as we develop new trading relationships. It would assist in the future prosperity and financial sustainability of Southampton Airport, that the Council knows is vital to our regional economy. The Eastleigh Riverside site, with its excellent communications, is a major asset in the bid. If the Government is serious about ‘levelling up’ coastal economies, South Hampshire needs a vote of confidence when the Chancellor announces the results of the bidding process later this year.”

A Freeport is a secure customs zone where business can be carried out inside the UK’s land border, but where different customs rules apply to deliver a competitive advantage. It simplifies customs procedures and reduces bureaucracy and tariff controls for both imports and exports; it also provides relief from duties and import taxes.

The 130-hectare (320-acre) Eastleigh Riverside/Southampton International Airport North East Business Park site identified for the development stretches from the north east corner of the airport to Bishopstoke Road and was previously earmarked as an Enterprise Zone. Its proximity to the airport, and the mainline rail and motorway network, makes it an ideal location for a Freeport site. As part of their support for the LEP bid, Councillors reaffirmed their backing for the construction of a new road to bypass Eastleigh town centre (the Chickenhall Lane Link Road, which the Council has previously campaigned for).

The LEP’s bid is seen as ground-breaking as it is universally supported by key players in the regional economy, including an upper-tier local authority (Hampshire County Council), two unitary councils (Southampton and Portsmouth) and three district authorities (Eastleigh, New Forest and Havant), as well as the New Forest National Park. Private sector support includes port operators, including ABP, Southampton Airport, and transport companies.

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