The Thames Freeport has been granted final approval from government, opening the door to an estimated 21,000 jobs and more than £4.6billion in investment. 

The scheme, which links Ford’s Dagenham manufacturing plant with Tilbury and London Gateway, is one of several to have been given the go-ahead by government since they were announced in 2021’s budget. 

Businesses in freeports are offered incentives such as tax breaks and a “simplified customs procedure”, according to the government, leading to some concerns about them becoming tax havens and encouraging poor working practices. 

Incorporating 1,700 acres of development land, the Thames Freeport is backed by a partnership between Ford, Forth Ports Limited and DP World, and will focus on sectors including electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery storage. 

According to the government, it will “help drive investment into sectors including automated and electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery storage, generating thousands of jobs and boosting the local economy”. 

Thames Freeport estimates it will attract more than £4.6bn in new public and private investment, and will create more than 21,000 new jobs. 

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, said the announcement would work in conjunction with initiatives such as the proposed relocation of three wholesale markets and the new film studios to put Dagenham “back on the map”. 

He added: “I do take on board the concerns around workers’ rights and the potential for corporate tax evasion. That is why as the freeport moves into operation it is vitally important that it is subject to political scrutiny from MPs and local authorities, who can hold companies benefitting from the zone to account where necessary.” 

Barking and Dagenham Post: Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and RainhamJon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham (Image: Jim Brown)

Robin Mortimer, Maritime UK chair, said: “This latest wave of freeport approvals is a major boost for UK maritime and the wider levelling-up agenda. Business, and the wider communities, will now be able to benefit from the wave of investment, development and jobs that freeports are projected to generate.” 

The approval means the freeport now is able to formally constitute its board and begin full operations. It will also receive up to £25million seed funding from government. 

Five freeports were already fully operational in England before the Thames one was given the go-ahead. The other sites are Teesside, Liverpool City Region, Freeport East, Solent and Plymouth.