New freeport in Dagenham gets the green light from the chancellor
- Credit: PA
Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave the go-ahead for a new freeport in Dagenham, during his budget speech today (March 3).
A joint bid by DP World, Forth Ports and Ford will see a Thames Freeport, which could create up to 25,000 new jobs, alongside the Ports of London Gateway and Tilbury in Thurrock.
Labour-led Barking and Dagenham Council had already backed the proposal and councillors voted in favour of it in January.
The chancellor said: "Freeports are special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business. They’re well-established internationally, but we’re taking a unique approach.
"Our freeports will have simpler planning to allow businesses to build, infrastructure funding to improve transport links, cheaper customs with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties.
"And lower taxes – with tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation."
The chancellor went on to confirm the Thames freeport as one of eight locations across the country.
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However, Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge has previously told the Post that, while she has always backed big projects to boost the borough, a freeport is the "wrong way" to grow the local economy.
She said: "Freeports are big risks for money laundering and tax evasion too. Low taxes and light-touch regulation make freeports an ideal home for wrongdoers.
"A freeport on the Thames would open another gap in our already-stretched defences against dirty money."
Thames Estuary envoy, Kate Willard, described the Treasury announcement today as a "real triumph" for the estuary.
"We are absolutely delighted to have been selected as a freeport location," she said. "We believe that the Thames Estuary is the right place to have freeport status, and are so pleased that the government thinks so too.
"In 2020, the Thames Estuary Growth Board set out six key principles for a freeport bid, setting the direction and making clear to any bidders the outcome we need from a Thames Freeport.
"These principles were economic, investment, innovation, environment, regeneration and community. The last one of our principles is the most important to us."
Thames Freeport will be an 'automotive hub', focused on developing electric and autonomous vehicles.
Barking and Dagenham Council leader Councillor Darren Rodwell added: "As diesel engine production ends in 2030, the decision to give the Thames Freeport the go ahead will help secure jobs using greener more sustainable technology on the Dagenham Ford site.
"This complements our own efforts to create more new jobs alongside a new film studio and the three markets of London, as London continues to grow eastwards.”