East Midlands Freeport gets UK government greenlight

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The UK government has given East Midlands Freeport (EMF) in the UK formal approval to open for business.

Centered around East Midlands Airport, the country’s largest dedicated cargo airport, EMF offers UK access to air, rail and road links, connecting businesses and customs sites to national and global markets.

EMF is England’s only inland freeport with 533ha of prime, strategic development land at three sites – East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC), East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) and the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station redevelopment site.

The freeports model has three objectives for the government – to establish national hubs for global trade and investment, create innovation hotbeds, and promote regeneration.

Formal government approval enables businesses located on the three EMF sites to have access to a range of special incentives. Tax benefits include a zero rate of secondary national insurance contributions for freeport employees, enhanced capital allowance for plant and machinery, enhanced structures and buildings allowance, and relief from both stamp duty land tax and business rates. The approval will also release over £25m (US$30.9m) of seed capital funding to deliver infrastructure and investment projects including new roads, transportation infrastructure and a Hydrogen Skills Academy.

EMF, which is set to create thousands of jobs in the region and boost the East Midlands’ economy by £8.4bn (US$10.4bn), will also create trade hubs to drive the low carbon and renewable energy, advanced manufacturing and advanced logistics sectors, as well as support investment in research and development.

As part of the announcement, the University of Leicester’s space research center Space Park Leicester was given the green light by the government to become a customs site operator for EMF, bolstering the freeport’s focus on driving innovation and skills. Space Park Leicester is a single-site science and innovation park dedicated to – and specifically designed for – space-related companies and researchers, covering enterprise, innovation and teaching. Since opening in Spring 2022, Space Park Leicester has generated an estimated £89m (US$110.2m) for the economy in its first year of operation, supported 607 jobs and landed five major foreign direct investments. A strategically placed space sector cluster with a national and international focus, it is forecast to contribute £750m (US$929m) a year to the UK space sector over the next decade.

Nora Senior, chair of EMF, said, “Space Park Leicester is a trailblazing collaboration that is

leading pioneering research and I’m delighted it’s on board with EMF. SPL has become the latest organization to join an innovative, inland freeport designed to boost jobs and power the region’s economy. Securing a customs site operator was the final piece of the jigsaw for the freeport and means that EMF can now officially open for business and become fully operational.

Tom Newman-Taylor, chief executive at EMF, commented, “EMF is focused on green tech and innovation and teaming up with the space sector will only attract more businesses to make the freeport their home. The Freeport represents a massive opportunity for the East Midlands. We can now set about delivering on our core objectives: to drive up low-carbon investment and innovation in the region – boosting jobs, skills and wages for the communities we serve.”

Professor Richard Ambrosi, executive director at Space Park Leicester, said, “The establishment of the East Midlands Freeport and customs site operator at Space Park Leicester represents a significant step in the development of a Space Cluster and space ecosystem in the region. These initiatives will have an impact in attracting inward investment and boosting export opportunities. We look forward to working with our East Midlands Freeport partners, Leicestershire county council and Leicester city council in realizing the full potential of this initiative.”

Dehenna Davison, minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, stated, “The East Midlands has a thriving manufacturing sector and we want to capitalize on those strengths while also developing new green growth industries. The East Midlands Freeport, the only inland Freeport, is up and running and will bring high-quality jobs, investment and trading opportunities for businesses in the region. This will help us deliver on our mission to grow the economy and level up right across the UK.”

Read more regulation and policy updates from the passenger terminal industry, here.

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