Ben Houchen reacted to Chancellor Rishi Sunak giving the green light to the creation of Teesside Freeport, which includes the Port of Hartlepool with the Mayor predicting a ‘tsunami of jobs and investment’.
He submitted a bid to the Government in early 2019 for a freeport in the region which it’s said has the potential to bring 18,000 jobs in the next six years.
It received the backing of Hartlepool council chiefs with the bid also including Able Seaton Port and the Port of Hartlepool which is run by PD Ports along with its Teesport site.
Mayor Houchen said: “Future generations will look back on today and say this was the day Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool was reborn as an industrial powerhouse.
“The Teesside Freeport marks the start of us returning to our rightful place on the world stage as a global player in advanced manufacturing and engineering."
Mr Sunak said freeports will have simpler planning regulation, cheaper customs with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties, and tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation.
Mayor Houchen said investors from across the world will choose Teesside instead of instead of Germany or Holland creating thousands of well-paid jobs.
The freeport will be the largest in the UK. Together with the Teesworks industrial site development, local infratstructure and workforce, he added: “We’ve put the building blocks in place for local people to benefit from the tsunami of jobs and investment that will come to our area in the weeks and months ahead.”
Jerry Hopkinson, PD Ports chief operating officer and vice chairman, said they were delighted after working ‘tirelessly’ to support the freeport bid.
He said: “This marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Tees Valley’s renaissance – Freeport status will enable us at PD Ports to build on our successful track record of attracting investment and delivering real, sustainable jobs across the region for the region.
“The River Tees is a national asset for trade and our newly found Freeport status will further help us to unlock its full potential and deliver the prosperity this region deserves.”
The Hartlepool port serves as a hub for renewable energy, oil and gas activity.
Hartlepool Borough Council leader Shane Moore said: “It’s wonderful news the Tees Valley is to become home to the first and biggest Freeport in the UK and this will of course include the Port of Hartlepool.
“The Tees Valley’s bid was based on our strengths in clean growth and I believe today’s announcement means investment that may have gone elsewhere will now come to our region.
“Freeport status will also harness the power of the Tees Valley’s highly skilled workforce, and our established and emerging industrial clusters.”
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said said it will provide a boost to Hartlepool’s economy, but was disappointed there was no mention of the future of nuclear energy.
And Labour Tees Valley Mayor candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs said freeports were ‘not a silver bullet solution’ to the region’s problems.
She said: “We must ensure the new jobs are real jobs, secure and skilled jobs with good wages and conditions.”