The Burnham-On-Sea area could be set to benefit from a bid to develop a new ‘Great Western Freeport’ business zone which aims to generate thousands of new jobs.
The proposals to create a free port zone has been submitted to government and, if accepted, the Great Western Freeport will create a customs area at Royal Portbury and Avonmouth Docks near Bristol where products can be shipped in without paying a tariff plus new tax sites at the Gravity Campus at M5 Junction 23 near Burnham-On-Sea (pictured) and Severnside.
A Freeport is described as a space for businesses to import goods and materials, then add value to them through manufacturing, before exporting them.
Partners in the bid include the West of England Combined Authority, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP), Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council.
The Gravity Smart Campus near Burnham-On-Sea would play a key role, focusing on “clean growth” and attracting hi-tech companies manufacturing electric cars, artificial intelligence, and robotics. WECA says it could create around 4,000 jobs.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, above, adds: “The Great Western Freeport has the potential to provide a welcome boost to the region’s economy as we work together to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“As an integral part of the Freeport, Gravity will be home to some of the world’s most innovative companies and will not only help create thousands of new jobs but will also help tackle the climate emergency with its focus on clean growth.”
Claire Pearce, Gravity’s Director of Planning and Economic Development, adds: “We have an opportunity to create a smart campus at Gravity that places Somerset at the heart of national and global efforts to embrace huge opportunities presented by clean growth.”
“As an organisation working to deliver a smart campus and community in Somerset that will create 4,000 high quality jobs, we are proud to support the Great Western Freeport bid with partners.”
“We support the bid because a freeport would bring new opportunities and investment to Somerset, which Gravity is perfectly placed to support.”
And Cllr Gill Slocombe, Sedgemoor District Council Deputy Leader and Portfolio holder for Inward Investment and Growth, has also welcomed the bid: “Sedgemoor has long supported the development of Gravity as a key stimulus to the economy both locally and regionally.”
“It will bring substantial new investment and deliver positive clean growth and give huge opportunities for local people and businesses. Freeport status will help make Gravity an even more attractive opportunity which Sedgemoor will play a full part in helping to deliver.”
The submitted bid has been put together by the combined authority working with public and private sector partners, including large-scale businesses across the aerospace and nuclear sector, the region’s universities and colleges, innovation centres, local authorities and business networks. The successful Freeport locations will be announced in the spring.