Skip to page content
Projects Map


South East LEP celebrates two Freeports and cements status as UK’s Global Gateway following Budget 2021 announcement

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) is delighted to be recognised as the UK’s Global Gateway for trade and investment following the announcement of two new Freeports being given Government backing in the Chancellor’s Budget announcement today.

This news means that a quarter of the first eight Freeport locations to be announced in England are located in the South East LEP area – which covers East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock – unlocking up to 38,500 jobs and together contributing £10.1bn GVA to the area.

The allocation of Freeports in the area will directly support the delivery of SELEP’s wider strategy for recovery and renewal. It will cement the South East’s critical role as a global gateway; create a leading location for inward investment; and link the UK with international markets, delivering significant benefits for the South East and the UK as a whole.

Freeport East

Freeport East – centred around Felixstowe and Harwich Ports – will use its new status to harness local clean energy from offshore and other carbon-free sources to drive good green growth.

The Freeport’s long-term, sustainable focuses for growth include maritime technology, offshore wind energy and other renewables-related technology. As well as its innovation in agri-tech, it will also be the country’s primary green hydrogen power hub.

Thanks to its new status, Freeport East will contribute £5bn to GVA over five years, and will see up to 13,500 new jobs created as a result of increased trade. It also expects up to 1.3 million tonnes of international trade volumes as a result of incentivised increase in tradeable imports and exports.

SELEP Chair Christian Brodie said of Freeport East:

“This announcement will provide an economic spark, injecting investment and providing much needed long-term regeneration for the wider area. 

“The size and scale of a Freeport for Felixstowe and Harwich is internationally significant, and we look forward to working with Freeport East to see this potential realised.”

Freeport East Chairman George Kieffer said:

“We are delighted to have been chosen by the Chancellor as one of the first new Freeports in the UK for a number of years.

“Freeport East offers a unique opportunity to build a truly global trade hub at the same time as accelerating opportunities in green energy and helping level-up the economy.

“We look forward to working with Government to further develop our business plan and to realising the potential that this opportunity represents.”

Thames Freeport

Alongside a £5.1 billion boost to GVA, the Thames Freeport will bring to the South East more than £4.5 billion in new public and private investment as well as more than 25,000 new jobs plus more across supply chains. This will provide an opportunity for significant investment in training and skills, bolstering the local workforce.

It will also unlock 1,700 acres of development land and bring a £400 million port investment into some of the most deprived areas in the South East, which – alongside London – contains 20% of the UK’s most deprived communities.

Thames Freeport will connect Ford’s Dagenham engine plant and the global ports of London Gateway and Tilbury, as well as providing invaluable levelling up opportunities for these communities.

Christian Brodie said of Thames Freeport:

“This is fantastic news and a much-welcomed jobs boost for the South East LEP area. This is exactly the form of investment that is needed along the Estuary, and it is great to see Government recognising the huge potential of the area.”

Stuart Wallace, Chief Operating Officer at Forth Ports, owner of the Port of Tilbury, said:

“This is fantastic news and we are ready to hit the ground running. The freeport policy’s special economic measures will turbocharge the best of the private sector to level up the left behind communities along the estuary.”

Helping to level up the South East

Freeports in these locations will play a critical role in ‘levelling-up’ deprived communities in the South East, driving increases in productivity, boosting the skills of the local workforce, providing local opportunities in areas that have experienced long term unemployment, and deprivation. Freeport status will be an important vehicle to power economic recovery for the area.

Christian Brodie continued:

“The South East was lucky to have a number of bids for Freeports in our area. Freeport East stood out as it draws on the significant port and maritime assets in the area, and for its focus on driving long-term sustainable growth and a ‘Green Recovery’.

“The Thames Freeport was marked out by the collaboration of world-leading companies and its focus on providing opportunities for communities across the Thames Estuary – many of which know significant deprivation. 

“Our Board was unanimous in its support for both Freeport East and Thames Freeport – we called for this investment and are delighted to see it today.”

South East LEP Chief Executive Adam Bryan said:

“Freeport status will be yet another distinguishing factor setting the South East apart as the UK’s gateway to Europe and the world. We look forward to working together to support Freeport East and Thames Freeport to take forward these plans.

“We are open for business and working to provide the best conditions so our businesses can thrive.”