Freeport priorities set to be outlined by NFDC

FREEPORT benefits and the reinvestment priorities for the local area are set to be outlined in a report to New Forest District Council. Solent Freeport, which locally includes areas in Marchwood and Fawley, as well as Southampton, was officially designated at the end of 2022. Hailed as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, the freeport brings tax relief, simplified customs procedures and streamlined planning processes to promote regeneration and innovation.

The government had pledged up to GBP25m in funding for the project, with the potential generation of tens of millions of pounds in business rates, which can be kept locally to spend on infrastructure and regeneration.

Solent Freeport

Solent Freeport

Solent Freeport

A recent meeting of the council's place and sustainability overview and scrutiny panel agreed priorities in respect of economic growth in order to secure a legacy for the New Forest.

These include transport and wider infrastructure, employment and skills, environment stability and prosperous communities. A report to members explained: "Tax sites within the New Forest will play a vital role in the delivery of the Freeport, with land at the former Fawley Power Station, Exxon Mobil, ABP's strategic land reserve and Marchwood Port (Solent Gateway) making up the Southampton Waterside tax site, along with one additional site outside of the district boundary in Redbridge. "In the freeport business cases, these sites are forecast to contribute 7,000 new jobs, GBP290m of retained business rates and 303 ha of developable land.

"With the freeport now live, it is important that investment comes forward which will realise these benefits - the clock is ticking both in respect of the benefits for investors but also the period over which retained business rates will be realised."

Until now, the district council has not progressed proposals for how it would like to see retained business rates reinvested in the region.

The report adds: "While retained rates will be pooled and used collectively across the area, tax sites within the New Forest will be contributing a significant proportion of these funds - it is therefore appropriate that we look to influence how they are utilised and ensure that New Forest residents see significant benefit from the freeport over the years ahead."

Members of the committee agreed to instruct officers to develop a New Forest Freeport Delivery Plan, which will "form the basis for discussions" on use of business rates and other funding opportunities as they come forward.