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Devon backs Freeport proposals

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We have agreed our support for the development of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport sites in the county.

The Freeport has the potential to unlock £314 million of inward investment and create more than 3,500 jobs by building on the area’s global reputation for marine innovation and advanced engineering.

At our Cabinet meeting (Wednesday 13 April), councillors backed proposals to borrow up to £15 million of capital investment to kickstart transport infrastructure schemes that are vital to the project. They also approved the County Council becoming a founder member of a company limited by guarantee to operate the Freeport, alongside South Hams District Council (SHDC) and Plymouth City Council (PCC).

We are working with our partner authorities to approve and submit the Full Business Case (FBC) for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport later this month. It’s expected to set out the ambition to deliver a Freeport that protects existing jobs, generates new employment opportunities, and ensures that businesses can expand their local operations while also contributing positively to Carbon Net Zero targets.

Three main sites have been identified to unlock 130 hectares of development land to provide space for high value advanced manufacturing and logistics companies:

Langage Energy Park – public investment will support preparation of the site and transport links, including a new cycle/pedestrian bridge over the A38 to serve both Sherford and Langage. Private investment is expected to be attracted to build advanced manufacturing units, logistics facilities and a plant for renewable hydrogen with a lower carbon footprint.

Sherford Employment Zone – work will be carried out on site preparation and transport links, and state-of-the-art logistics facilities will be developed.

South Yard in Devonport – a new Innovation Centre and Mobility hub will be established at Oceansgate, with further investment in new and upgraded infrastructure and facilities. 

We will invest in the development of the spine road extension at Langage, cycle and pedestrian bridge, and road link from Langage to Sandy Road to enable access to the A38.

Devon County Council Leader John Hart said:

“The proposals for the Freeport will unlock key sites for employment that have effectively stalled over the years. This will accelerate growth that simply may not be achieved without this project. Developing much needed employment land will create space for advanced manufacturing and green energy firms to locate to the area, and the tax and customs benefits will provide additional incentive for the rapid development of the sites.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

“The Freeport will provide thousands of new jobs and training opportunities to underpin the recovery of our economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This project has the potential to regenerate and transform the local and regional economy, which will support the wider levelling up agenda and stimulate local skills, jobs and higher wages.

“Specialisms including maritime decarbonisation, smart port shipping and offshore renewable energy have been identified for the Freeport, offering the potential to increase productivity and develop links with digital and low carbon technologies.”

The Plymouth and South Devon Freeport was one of eight successful bids announced in March last year, with an Outline Business case submitted last November.