Barrow Aerial
Barrow, a crucial part of the Cumbrian proposal

Barrow and Workington ports key to Cumbrian freeport bid

Neil Tague

Dockside sites, along with land at Carlisle Lake District Airport, are central to the Heart of the UK Freeport plan advanced by the area’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

The bid, submitted last Friday along with those of other locations competing to be one of the winning group of up to ten, has been developed by the LEP in partnership with the ports, airport, and four local authorities: Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council. Local MPs are also backing the bid.

In this week’s edition of The Subplot, David Thame examined the Liverpool City Region’s powerful bid, strongly fancied to be one of the winners.

Cumbria has set out the strengths of its bid as being at both multi-centre and multi-modal; and a UK- rather than England-centric one, sharing a land border with Scotland and sea routes to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Cumbria County Council, which owns the Port of Workington and is the local transport authority, would be the accountable body for a successful bid.

The airport is owned by Esken, formely known as the Stobart Group, which secured an £8m grant in November to support its continued operation. Barrow’s port is owned by Associated British Ports.

Freeports are a pet project of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, a long-time supporter of what promoters outline as areas that can attract investment to struggling former industrial zones: the counter-argument being that such low tax, low intervention areas divert revenues and are hard to regulate.

Companies operating within freeports can benefit from deferring the payment of taxes until products are moved elsewhere, or can avoid taxes altogether if they bring in goods to store or manufacture on site before exporting them again.

Lord Inglewood, chairman of Cumbria LEP, said that everybody involved “recognises the important role that the freeport could play in economy recovery and growth”.

He continued: “The bid is focused on Cumbria’s unique location, literally at the heart of the UK and therefore crucial to UK connectivity. Our bid is novel and imaginative as it looks to tailor the benefits of a freeport in a polycentric, rural and dispersed area rather than an urban, concentrated geography.

“It is also built on our existing global strengths and is therefore ambitious, as well as being realistic and deliverable.”

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Very small and isolated ports with poor road and rail connections…. weak bid

By George