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Liverpool City Region Freeport

In the March 2021 Budget, Liverpool City Region was announced by the Chancellor as one of eight places across England that will be granted Freeport status, subject to the successful development of a business case.

The bidding process brought together a consortium of partners, including LCRCA, its constituent local authorities, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and its sector boards, Growth Platform, industry bodies, universities, further education colleges, infrastructure owners and operators, and the wider local business base. The LCR Freeport aims to provide a boost to the local economy, enabling key sites across the Liverpool City Region to attract new investment, create quality jobs, support the wider economy, and increase levels of innovation.

Liverpool, as the country’s leading transatlantic port, is a natural Freeport location. It handles 45% of trade from the US and is the UK’s biggest western facing port. The proposed Freeport sites, which include several existing rail terminals and water-accessible locations, are located within areas of logistics and manufacturing capability.

The Freeport will be shaped to support the delivery of City Region’s vision outlined in the Local Industrial Strategy and Economic Recovery Plan: for a globally competitive, environmentally responsible, and socially inclusive City Region.

The impact is expected to be significant, including:

  • 310ha of land for development
  • 675,000sqm of commercial floorspace created
  • £800m of total investment
  • 14,000 gross direct and indirect jobs
  • £850m GVA

The initial competitive bidding process was only the first stage. Over the coming months, the consortium of partners will be working closely together, and with Government, to develop the business case.

What is a Freeport?

Freeports are specific geographic areas which have different tax and customs rules than the rest of the country. They broadly consist of Customs and Tax Zones.

Imports can enter freeport customs zones with simplified customs procedures and do not have payable tariffs. Businesses operating within these designated areas can take advantage from the deferment of tariffs until their products are moved elsewhere, to another part of the country. They can avoid tariffs and full procedures altogether if they bring in goods to manufacture on site before exporting them again to an international market.

Freeport tax zones will benefit from a range of special regulatory and tax benefits. These include enhanced capital allowances, stamp duty and other buildings and land reliefs, employer national insurance contributions relief, business rate relief, and local retention of business rates for local authorities hosting the tax zones. In particular, there is an emphasis through the tax zones on encouraging and supporting businesses that import, process, manufacture, and re-export goods.

Freeports aim to stimulate high value economic activity within their designated areas, which will then spill over and support impacts across an economic geography (i.e. the wider Liverpool City Region). Through the incentives, they are intended to stimulate increased levels of inward investment to drive new developments, research and development, and encourage business led innovation.

The proposed LCR Freeport

The LCR Freeport will be a multi-gateway, multi-modal freeport covering 300 hectares of land. This will include three tax sites and strategically located customs zones across all modes of transport, linking to the primary customs zone at the Port of Liverpool. It will take in a 45km diameter (the maximum distance allowed by Government), from the western point Wirral Waters to the eastern point of Port Salford.

Liverpool City Region Freeport Map

Key aims of the LCR Freeport:

  • Leveraging the strategic location of the Port of Liverpool and other City Region gateways.
  • Developing a globally significant cluster of port, manufacturing, logistics and innovation activity.
  • Being a critical tool in attracting inward investment.
  • Regenerating areas of deprivation.
  • Enabling sustainable job creation. Targeting good quality jobs, in line with the LCR Fair Employment Charter / the Real Living Wage, and continual assessment of skills requirements.
  • Supporting key manufacturing supply chains in the Liverpool City Region to safeguard jobs and incentivise future investment.
  • Helping to rebalance UK freight and logistics in favour of the North West.
  • Improving links to national, regional, and City Regional infrastructure assets.
  • Supporting national and local ambitions for Net Zero.

An overarching aim will be to ensure that the Freeport contributes to LCR’s inclusive economy ambitions. The LCR Freeport partners will collaborate on efforts to drive social mobility, equality, and inclusion.

The Tax Zones

The tax zones provide a range of benefits and are designed to attract new business operations and generate additional, added value investment. The three proposed LCR Freeport tax zones are:

Parkside, St Helens: the largest strategic employment site in the City Region. It is located in St Helens close to the M6 and M62. The site includes the former Parkside Colliery. It will attract advanced manufacturing and logistics businesses.

3MG, Widnes: offers direct connections to the UK motorway network and rail access from the West Coast Main Line. 3MG is already involved in the Hydrogen economy supporting capital investment in low carbon fuels and infrastructure.

Wirral Waters: located around the Birkenhead Docks, it has port connectivity, direct access to the M53 motorway and is located within the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone. It comprises significant areas of dockside land capable of attracting a range of port-centric businesses, advanced manufacturing, innovation and research and development activities.

The Customs Zones

There are a range of proposed Customs Zones to be located within the LCR Freeport, across a number of industries that may benefit, from advanced and biomanufacturing, to logistics and ports. These sites will undergo an approval process with Government/HMRC as part of the development of the outline business case.

Running the Freeport

A Management Board will be made up of the public, private and academic sectors, with a formalised governance structure behind it that can make key decisions and provide the strategic steer required for effective delivery. This will also be a key forum to engage with wider partners and businesses across the City Region.

Next Steps

Partners will be working with Government over the course of this year in creating a detailed business case. Freeport status is subject to the successful completion of this process. For more information on this and anything else around the Freeport work programme, please contact Gus.Riddy@liverpoolcityregion-ca.gov.uk

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