Agenda item

Plymouth and South Devon Freezone


The Leader (Councillor Nick Kelly), David Draffan (Service Director for Economic Development) and Richard May (Head of Oceansgate and Marine Investment) presented the report which highlighted the following –



the Plymouth and South Devon Freezone would help the city to bounce back from the Covid pandemic and grow the local economy; the Freezone was expected to generate thousands of new jobs and over £100m of new investment over the next 10 years;




as Britain’s Ocean City, with its natural harbour and direct deep water access to the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, Plymouth was ideally located for accessing European and global markets; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had predicted that the global ocean economy would be worth more than £2 trillion by 2030;




the Freezone would build on the city’s strengths to drive growth across the region; this would harness the power of Plymouth’s marine economy to drive economic growth and working with Devon as the Local Transport Authority, fund road network improvements and unlock under-utilised employment land at Sherford and Langage;




the proposal directly targeted key growth areas such as marine manufacturing, wind and wave energy and marine autonomy; the success would bring in an immediate injection of at least £20m of capital; with the locally raised matched element being funded through the business rates uplift that the Freezone would generate, there would be no diversion of Council funding from other priorities;




it would provide an opportunity to deliver clean growth and the high quality jobs the city needed for the future, whilst protecting its unique historic and natural infrastructure;




in the early stages, delivering the Freezone required the Council to pass through a series of ‘gates’; in each case the Council had to evidence that certain criteria had been met, in order to unlock some benefit; the first of these related to having governance structures in place; these had been agreed by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government;




the next requirement would be to submit a capacity funding application setting out the city’s budget for 2021/22; following a process of negotiation, a budget would be submitted which would take the Council up to the point of submitting an outline business case; it was anticipated that there would be a further opportunity to submit a capacity funding claim once that milestone had been reached; an initial payment of £300k had been received in late June 2021; whilst this had been welcomed, the Council also needed to maximise the use of internal existing resource to support the development of the outline business case;




the next steps would be to establish an implementation plan and deliver the outline business case in the autumn; currently, the implementation plan included seven projects each of which had a lead officer who would be responsible for an overall programme board for delivery;




each of these projects encompassed a number of discreet work streams and small groups of officers with relevant skills sets, drawn from the three local authorities; other key partners would be assigned to each one; in areas where the expertise available from the partners was inadequate, the Council would bring in consultancy support to bolster in-house capacity;




the purpose of the programme delivery team was to deliver the Freezone; to ensure the outline business case was delivered within the required timeline; a tighter core team of officers had been established to work specifically on the business case supported by the same team employed to write the successful bid.


Richard May (Head of Oceansgate and Marine Investment) provided a presentation to the Committee (which would be circulated outside of this forum).


The Committee discussed the following key issues -



how the Freezone would help the disadvantage areas within the city, the environment and how the tax site benefits (particularly employers paying 0% employer NICs on salaries of new employees earning up to £25k per annum for three years) would benefit local communities;




the importance of ensuring that the infrastructure was able to support the increase in the traffic generated by the Freezone (such as the provision of sufficient parking in the sites that had been identified for business growth);




how the Freezone would work with the conservation areas within the city;




whether the strategic network (such as the A38) would be improved in readiness for the increase in traffic flow to the sites identified within the Freezone, in particular Langage and Sherford;




whether the outline business case could provide information on how the Freezone would support the city’s aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 (including any mitigating actions) and whether the maritime decarbonisation could be measured and this information shared;




the importance of ensuring that the issues agreed with both residents and businesses as part of the Joint Local Plan were taken on board when developing the sites identified as part of the Freezone;




whether the improvement works to the Deep Lane junction would be brought forward, as part of the creation of an efficient, sustainable transport network.


The Committee requested that a response was provided, outside of this forum, as to whether the work on the Deep Lane junction would be brought forward, as part of the Freezone.


The Committee noted the report and the progress being made in the relatively short period of time, since the Plymouth and South Devon Freezone was announced as one of eight successful bids for Freeport status.

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