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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Hannah Baker

'Bitter disappointment' as Bristol and Dorset freeport bids miss out

Business leaders in the West of England have spoken of their “bitter disappointment” after a bid for a freeport in Bristol and another in Dorset missed out on being selected.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced eight new freeports for England in his Budget statement on Wednesday, March 3, including one in Plymouth.

But the two other regional bids for freeports - designated zones where the normal tax and tariff rules of the country do not apply - failed to make the cut.

The Bristol Port bid had been slated to created around 50,000 jobs had it been successful. In November 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Bristol was a "strong contender" to become a free port city.

Metro Mayor Tim Bowles, who headed up the Bristol bid on behalf of the West of England Combined Authority, said he was not alone in being “bitterly disappointed”.

"[Although] our bid for the Great Western Freeport was not selected, I still believe the strength of our region and economy could have made us an exemplar of how modern freeports could be a success.”

He said he how wanted a “prompt and detailed” explanation from ministers about why the Government did not take the bid forward.

He added: “Nevertheless, thanks to our regional recovery plan, we are bringing forward our own schemes and plans to secure our recovery, help businesses create decent, well- paid jobs and renew our economy by supporting our region’s strengths.”

Business leaders have also accused the chancellor of focusing on the North of England - and overlooking the South West - his Budget speech.

“In regional terms, the West Country looks like it is losing out,” said Phil Smith, managing director of Bristol-based chamber of commerce Business West.

“Bristol failed to secure a free port for the region, as much of the focus of the chancellor was fixed on the North of England, Scotland and Wales. This is disappointing and we encourage our MPs and political leaders to continue to fight for our fair share of levelling up money to address the needs of this region.”

The freeport bid for Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch was also not selected. The chief of Dorset Chamber, Ian Girling, said he was “incredibly disappointed” but the region stood ready to seize any similar opportunities in future.

He added: “I hope the fiscal firepower deployed by the chancellor will now give businesses in Dorset the confidence to plan ahead with greater certainty as they begin to rebuild over the coming months.”

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