This content is over ten months old. The content may now be out of date.

Liverpool City Region Freeport officially open for business

11 January 2023
shows the next phase of Mea Park, with West Float and the Liverpool skyline in the background
Wirral Waters with the proposed MEA Park in the foreground

The Liverpool City Region Freeport is officially open for business after Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove approved its full business case.

Once fully operational, it is estimated that the freeport could create more than 14,000 new highly skilled jobs and deliver £800m of investment for the Liverpool City Region’s economy.

In support of it the region’s leaders have chosen to pursue businesses and industries that align with the values and priorities of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. These include innovation in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and green energy – with a particular focus on the region’s target to be net zero carbon by 2040 at the latest.

By grouping high-productivity and innovative businesses close together, the freeport can play a role in the region’s work to tackle the underlying weaknesses in the local job market such as productivity, pay and job security.

Responding to the news, Cllr Janette Williamson, Wirral Council leader and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and the Third Sector, said: 

The Liverpool City Region Freeport opening for business is tremendous news for our city region.  We have been very clear through this process that we would create a Freeport that helps to benefit everyone in our city region, and that is what we have done.  I’m sure that it will play a key role in driving inclusive economic prosperity across the whole of our area.

Last month, SSO International in Haydock, St Helens, became the freeport’s first Customs Site Operator (CSO). A freeport customs site operator provides a secure, enclosed customs zone where some normal customs rules do not apply. Every freeport needs at least one approved CSO to be operational.

The freeport is a designated area covering 45km, where a range of economic incentives will be available, covering customs, business rates, planning, regeneration, innovation and trade and investment support. Local councils will be able to retain 100% of business rates growth generated by the freeport tax sites – located in Birkenhead, St Helens and Widnes.

Centred on a mix of infrastructure including the deep-water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool – the UK’s biggest western facing port, which already handles 45% of trade from the US – it is the key coastal access point to the UK’s largest concentration of manufacturing.

Targeting key sectors including automotive, biomanufacturing/pharmaceuticals and maritime, the freeport will support and attract new advanced manufacturing, logistics and low carbon energy industries.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said:

Throughout the process, I’ve been clear that I will only use our freeport as a force for good, to help build an economy that works for everyone in our region. I want to attract investors into our area who believe in, and support, our local ambitions – those who will help us to protect workers’ rights and uphold standards, and who want to work with us to deliver regeneration and funding in the areas that need it most.

The establishment of the Liverpool City Region Freeport has the potential to help our drive to attract international investment, create more well-paid, highly-skilled jobs for local people and build on our existing strengths and promote our international competitiveness. It is estimated that the freeport will add £850m to the local economy and contribute towards our plans to boost research and development and target green technologies to help us reach net zero by 2040 at the latest.

But, for us, it means much more than that. I want to ensure that there is purpose behind this status that fuels greater social mobility, innovation, and inclusion for our whole region – including the integration of our Fair Employment Charter.

Those plans have taken another step forward. I will be pressing for it to be up and running as soon as possible so local people and communities can begin to feel the benefits.

John Lucy, Director of the Liverpool City Region Freeport, said:

This is a very significant moment for the Liverpool City Region’s economy as, after a huge amount of hard work, the Freeport is now up and running.  We can now get on with the real business of creating prosperity for the people of the city region.  I’m sure that the Freeport will be transformational and I can’t wait to see it start delivering real benefits.

Richard Mawdsley, Director of Development for Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters, added: 

Being part of the Liverpool City Region Freeport, we can continue the regeneration of Wirral Waters, attracting inward investment, creating new jobs and enabling innovation. Wirral Waters is a nationally significant regeneration site that will support modern methods of construction and advanced manufacturing, and will be a global centre dedicated to the decarbonisation of the maritime and logistics sectors.

Under the LCR Freeport designation, the MEA Park and Northside neighbourhood areas of Wirral Waters are part of the Wirral Waters Tax Site with a focus on supply chains, modern methods of construction, manufacturing, logistics and innovation. This aligns with the Wirral Waters masterplan, with the Four Bridges and Northbank neighbourhoods continuing to be developed out for sustainable waterside residential, educational, commercial and leisure uses. The Wirral Waters development is one of the largest mixed-use regeneration projects in the UK.

Related Tags