Today in the Budget, the Chancellor announced the shortlist for England’s freeport sites. 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. Our region’s leaders came forward to demonstrate their public support for the bid and heads of over 40 organisations signed a personal letter to Rishi Sunak outlining why it was so vital. 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.
Today’s 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.
Matt Beeton, CEO, Port of Tyne
Martin Lawlor, CEO, Port of Blyth
Lucy Winskell OBE, CEO North East Local Enterprise Partnership