The UK has launched a bidding process for the first seven Freeports in England, as part of the country’s post-Brexit strategy. The British Ports Association (BPA) welcomes the move, as part of its port zoning economic vision for regional growth.
This stage represents a key step forward to the establishment of a more advanced model Freeports than we have seen before. However inclusivity and consistency around the UK is still something policy makers need to consider to avoid any inadvertent consequences of perceived ‘winners and losers’,
…says Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association.
Since the UK Government’s announcement of the establishment of 10 Freeports in the summer of 2019, the BPA has argued that the Government must prioritize the principles of inclusivity, competition and fairness when forging the policy.
The BPA welcomed recent suggestions that the Treasury would consider the establishment of more than 10 Freeports in the event they receive a large number of high-quality proposals.
However, BPA argues, the current announcement does not yet represent the same significant step for ports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Concerns stress that dealignment and delays to the policy in the devolved administrations may be disruptive to ports market, which rely on a level-playing field for free and fair competition, Ballantyne further explained.
The BPA recently wrote to ministers responsible for the implementation of Freeports around the UK, voicing concerns that the devolved administrations have fallen behind and could be disadvantaged compared to English ports.
There are also further discussions to be had to ensure Freeports zones are geographically big enough and sufficiently flexible to enable regional growth ambitions. Meanwhile, the BPA is somewhat cautious of the potential economic displacement occurring in England too.
There are hopes that certain aspects of this can be widened to include all ports; including planning easements and ongoing considerations of how to speed up the Environmental Impact Assessment process as well as enabling marine development levers. By granting all ports access to certain policy mechanisms to accelerate growth, this could help to counter-balance the risk of displacement and help the government’s ‘build back better’ agenda,
…Mr. Ballantyne concluded.