Freeport will be incredible, but the hard work starts now

The Teesside freeport will provide a vital boost to the ongoing regeneration of the area – but there is still work to be done, says Peter Snaith, partner and head of manufacturing at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, who has been advising stakeholders in the successful bid.

The government’s decision to establish a freeport on Teesside was excellent news. It will help secure a sustainable future for our established, world class businesses. It will also bring inward investment and provide the seed bed for new technologies and exciting new industries, creating jobs and fresh opportunities for generations of our local workforce to come.

The government recognised the obvious strength of the Teesside bid as a front-runner in the process and the potential of a freeport in the Tees Valley to deliver the government’s objectives at pace. Enormous credit must go to the mayor and his team for championing a freeport for our region.

In his report on Freeports Opportunity back in 2016, Rishi Sunak referred to Teesport and our local industry as a case study to outline the benefits freeports can deliver for the UK. We are delighted that we are now being handed the opportunity to use this new initiative to realise the full potential for Teesside and to embark on the journey towards the next renaissance for the Tees Valley.

Teesside will be the focal point and the hub for the freeport development, but the benefits can be experienced across the entire region. Businesses that may not be located on tax sites or in customs zones will enjoy a ripple effect. New activities and expansion projects at the heart of the freeport will trigger investment across the area in terms of improved infrastructure and centres of excellence, as well as new housing and the development of retail and other amenities, among other things.

However, there is still work to be done. The Budget announcement of successful bidders was a significant step for the UK freeport agenda, but the selection of all eight locations is conditional. The governance structures for all winning bidders will be refined, with input from central government to ensure alignment with national policy. Customs sites must satisfy the requirements of HMRC and the Border Force for authorisation and all winning bidders must also develop their outline business cases for assessment, and it is here where our region can really shine.

Building on the compelling proposition that was put forward by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), as local stakeholders we can pull together to emphasise how we have the most advanced bid to enable our freeport to progress quickly. Through a coalition of our local and international businesses, academic institutions, port operators and local authorities, we can foster the creation of collaboration hubs and lightning rods for investment, which the TVCA can promote to push us to the front of the queue for government backing.

We have no doubt at all that Teesside is perfectly placed to make the most of this wonderful opportunity and we are proud to have played our part in bringing stakeholders in the Teesside bid together and in helping to motivate our community to give this our best shot. We are excited by the prospect of what is to come. We have a privileged position, representing a broad cross-section of the stakeholders in our new freeport. We will now work even harder to support those entities that need to work together to ensure the vision for our region becomes a reality.

To find out how Womble Bond Dickinson’s legal team can assist your business, please contact Peter on 0345 415 0000 or email peter.snaith@wbd-uk.com.