Humber Freeport ‘will bring economic benefits across the East Riding’

Councillors have said the Humber Freeport’s economic benefits should extend to the whole East Riding as it continues to reel from a coronavirus unemployment spike.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 12:55 pm
Cllr Jane Evison was concerned local firms would move to the Freeport.

East Riding Council’s Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee heard several national and international companies had already expressed interest in Humber Freeport, at Goole and Salt End.

Council planning and regeneration director Alan Menzies told councillors their investments would be worth hundreds of millions of pounds if they went ahead.

But he added the Freeport, which will waive some taxes and planning rules for companies based there, was not just about letting existing businesses relocate to cut costs.

His comments came as committee member Cllr Jane Evison said the special arrangements could see businesses move there rather than new ones launch, reducing economic benefits.

Cllr Paul Lissiter, also of the committee, said he was concerned the Freeport would be more of an asset to the country at large rather than the local economy.

He added he would want the council to push for some of the earnings from the site to be used to improve “poor” infrastructure around Salt End.

Mr Menzies said the Freeport news followed a “significant rise” in local unemployment of 88.1 per cent since March 2020, before the first coronavirus lockdown.

The director added Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest 8,615 claimant count, 4.4 per cent of working age adults, rose by 1.2 per cent since December.

HMRC figures also showed the number of East Riding workers furloughed stood at 16,200 at the end of December, down from 44,800 in July but up from 8,460 in October.

Mr Menzies said: “The Freeport isn’t about just shuffling businesses from one place to another, it’s about the net gain and net benefit for UK PLC.

“We’ve already had three enquiries on the Freeport east of Hull, all have overseas ownership and one is owned by a foreign Government. We’re also very optimistic that our bid for £25m in government funding through the Goole Town Deal will be approved in May.”

Council economic development head Paul Bell said: “The Freeport and enterprise zone will help put the East Riding on the map.

“The level of investment they will bring will create good quality jobs, and it will give existing small businesses the chance to engage with larger ones that move in.

“Some of those currently unemployed or furloughed are in a vulnerable position, we want them to capitalise on the Freeport and for the East Riding economy to grow on the back of it.”