One of the ways the Government wants to see post-Brexit trade boosted is the creation of innovative new Freeports around the country with local areas being invited to bid.
The Government is welcoming air, sea and rail ports to bid for Freeport status. Locations successful with a Freeport application will see a package of tax reliefs to help drive jobs, growth and innovation; streamlined planning processes to aid brownfield redevelopment; and simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods.
These will be new hubs of business and enterprise creating thousands of jobs and will play a significant part in building back better after Covid.
I want to see the Crawley area enjoy and utilise these benefits and I am pleased to be supporting the proposals submitted by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership which would place the ‘Gatwick Freeport’ in the Manor Royal Business Improvement District in Crawley.
The bid is undoubtedly strong and highlights the importance of Crawley to the local and indeed the wider economy. Last month during International Trade Questions in Parliament I called on the Government to support the plans.
The Manor Royal Business Improvement District is already home to more than 500 businesses and provides over 30,000 jobs (some 40 per cent of Crawley’s total employment), with our town providing 45 per cent of all employment in the Gatwick Diamond which includes areas across West Sussex and East Surrey. Manor Royal accounts for almost a fifth of all jobs throughout the Gatwick Diamond.
Following the pandemic the Crawley and Gatwick economy needs to be revitalised and Manor Royal can be at its heart. Situated a stone’s throw away from the biggest single runway airport in the world, it can bring materials, high value components, engineering knowledge, trade and inward investment into the UK.
Already around a 600 acre business park, Manor Royal has national importance as the home of businesses specialising in advanced manufacturing, medical technology and simulation, in addition to having the potential to scale up at speed.
We know the importance of reinvigorating our local economy. The effect of Covid-19 has been devastating in an area where Gatwick holds such an important place. Indeed, traffic at the airport has dropped by 93 per cent because of the impact of the pandemic which is why I established the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group to ensure wider support in the House of Commons for the sector.
A Freeport based on Gatwick Airport and Crawley’s Manor Royal Business Improvement District has the real potential to level up our area and enhance regional and national wellbeing.
It is expected that Government will announce 10 successful Freeport locations by the spring. I will continue to voice my support for our local bid as we recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Henry Smith MP