Freeport will put Hartlepool on global industrial map says Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

Great times lie ahead for Hartlepool after the announcement of a new freeport on Teesside, says Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 7:00 am
The Port of Hartlepool will be part of the new Teeside Freeport.

In a special column for the Mail, Mayor Houchen today sets out how Hartlepool stands to benefit from the decision by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his budget.

Three sites in the town are included in the new Teesside Freeport – the Port of Hartlepool, Able Seaton docks, and Liberty Steel.

The Port of Hartlepool will be one of Britain’s ‘leading gateways to the world’, says the mayor.

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Tees Valley Mayor says great times are in store for Hartlepool due to the creation of a new freeport in the region.

He is pushing for the freeport to be operational from as earlier as later this year and says it will pave the way for investment, jobs and put Hartlepool on the global industrial map.

Ben Houchen writes – The Chancellor’s budget for recovery was a good one for Britain but an especially good one for Hartlepool.

It was reassuring to hear the important steps the government is taking to support local people and local businesses through the pandemic restrictions, and announcement of new funds to support the UK’s world-beating vaccine campaign and the road map to end the pandemic and its restrictions.

The Budget was also good for Hartlepool’s history with £1.8million to transform Hartlepool Borough Hall, ensuring this amazing 155-year-old landmark will proudly serve us for decades to come.

However, what really excites me for Hartlepool’s long-term future success is the announcement that Hartlepool will benefit from a Freeport, bringing jobs, investment, and growth in its wake.

The Teesside Freeport is a key part of my plan for jobs, and when I was putting the plan together for our freeport I was determined to make sure Hartlepool benefited hugely from it.

Our region has an enviable reputation around the globe as a world leader when it comes to chemicals, process, engineering and offshore operations.

I have long thought we needed to exploit our position with much more energy to create the good quality, well paid jobs for local people that we all want to see come here.

In 2016 the people of Hartlepool overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU.

In doing so they voted to reject the EU’s inward looking, anti-free-trade policies, policies that destroyed our fishing industries and forced us to turn our backs on our friends around the globe.

Now we can take full advantage of Global Britain being a defender of free trade, with the Teesside Freeport powering forward our industrial revitalisation – something that would have been impossible if we’d stayed members of the EU bloc.

Freeports benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures, streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment, and government support to promote regeneration and innovation.

I’ve shouted from the rooftops and banged down doors across Whitehall and Westminster selling the Freeport concept to ministers and officials, and pressing the case for a freeport to come to our area in particular.

I asked the Chancellor for the country’s biggest Freeport, taking in the Port of Hartlepool, Able Seaton docks, and Liberty Steel’s Hartlepool facility, as well as parts of Redcar, Middlesbrough, and Teesside International Airport.

I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve been awarded it. Amazingly, we’ll be one of just eight English Freeports.

The Port of Hartlepool is going to be one of Britain’s leading gateways to the world, and we’re going to plug the Able Seaton docks and Liberty Steel into the offshore wind supply chain, with the chance to bring jobs currently given to foreigners to British workers in Hartlepool.

This is all going to put Hartlepool on the global industrial map, and I’m confident that we’ll soon be attracting the big investments we need to create a jobs tsunami for local people.

I’m now pushing full steam ahead to ensure our Freeport is operational later this year.

I passionately believe that the Teesside Freeport will be a jobs dynamo, a roaring engine of economic growth, and a flag-bearing project for Global Britain.

My plans will create 18,000 skilled, good-quality, well paid jobs over the next five years, and will increase inward investment into Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool by over £1.4 billion, boosting the local economy by £3.2 billion and unlocking new opportunities in turn.

These kinds of numbers hardly begin to tell the story of what this will mean for local people: bigger horizons, rejuvenated self-respect, and the opportunity for local people to build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Our Freeport shows why the people of Hartlepool were right to vote for Brexit.

The kind of transformative Freeport we’re getting isn’t allowed inside the European Union, and the jobs growth we’ll be seeing would have been blocked by officials in Brussels.

Even after the government delivered Brexit, the level of resistance to the Freeport policy from officials with an anti-Brexit mentality shouldn’t be underestimated.

In putting his faith in Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool, Rishi Sunak has shown himself to be a true Chancellor for the North, willing to face down internal opposition from Whitehall handwringers in a quest to bring the UK’s left-behind communities new, good quality, well-paid jobs, on an unprecedented scale.

Our new Freeport will enable us to kick off a new era for Hartlepool as part of an industrial powerhouse with a seat at the nation’s top table.

By the time the fantastic Tall Ships festival sails back into Hartlepool in 2023 it will be having a transformative effect on job creation and life opportunities for local people.

There are great times coming now for Hartlepool and I’m looking forward to doing all I can to make sure we make the very best of them.

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