Peel L&P’s proposed multi-modal terminal on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal has been included in Liverpool City Region’s bid for ‘freeport’ status, despite it being in Greater Manchester.
“Port Salford’s inclusion as a proposed customs site in the Liverpool City Region Freeport application strengthens the North West’s bid to become a hub for global trade and investment, and we’re proud to be able to support the application to help level up the country,” James Whittaker, Peel L&P’s executive director for development, told Place North West’s The Subplot this week.
The first phase of Port Salford offers a 1.5m sq ft development opportunity, on a site totalling 150 acres off Junction 11 of the M60.
The site has links to Manchester Ship Canal and beyond to Liverpool’s L2 Deepwater Shipping Terminal. A multi-modal Port Salford would provide “a central North West distribution base to improve supply chains for businesses across the region”, according to Peel L&P’s sales brochure.
The development would also enable direct barge access to the river terminal at the Port of Liverpool, “reducing the environmental impact” of the terminal’s planned expansion by reducing levels of road freight.
Whittaker told The Subplot: “Port Salford, on the banks of Manchester Ship Canal, is a proposed tri-modal freight facility and distribution park that could become the UK’s first inland waterway port, to be served by rail, road and sea.
“It will have good rail access to the Port of Liverpool and the West Coast Main Line north and south, supporting 16 trains a day and capacity for 775-metre-long European trains.”
The Liverpool City Region freeport bid was submitted to the Government on Friday.
The document is not in the public domain, but according to council documents it proposes a multi-gateway, multi-modal freeport including the main port as well as links to the ship canal, rail-enabled sites, and the airport. The aim is to focus on the automotive, biomanufacturing and chemicals sectors when attracting occupiers.
Freeports are the latest strand of the Government’s policy shift towards light-touch regulation and low-tax opportunity. They are specially designated economic zones where normal tax and customs rules do not apply, to encourage import, export and other commercial activity. For example, imports can enter a freeport with simplified customs checks and without paying tariffs.
The Port of Liverpool operated under freeport status until freeports were abolished in 2012 by the then-coalition government.
The latest administration consulted on plans to establish a new round of 10 freeports last year. Under the proposals, each UK freeport would also benefit from streamlined planning to aid brownfield development.
The Treasury has said freeports could stretch as big as 780 square miles, though not all of that space would enjoy the tax or customs benefits. Distant factories and transport terminals can be looped into proposals, with a “primary customs site” being the main port offering customs benefits, and “tax sites” being where new development can take place.
Under the Liverpool City Region bid, the primary customs site would be located within the Port of Liverpool, and the other customs sites scattered where they could be useful.
The proposed tax sites include Peel’s Wirral Waters where there is scope for a 1m sq ft marine, energy and automotive park; Langtree’s Parkside regeneration scheme in St Helens, where a 1m sq ft is planned, and Stobart’s 3MG, Widnes, which has planning permission for 430,000 sq ft of commercial development.
Port Salford is also included in the proposals, but it is not clear at this stage what benefits it would receive.
The first UK freeports are expected to be announced and created this year.
Consultancy Amion advised on the creation of the LCR bid. Asif Hamid, chair of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the bid this week:
“We are delighted to be supporting the city region’s application to become one of 10 UK freeport zones. The LEP has worked closely with local business to help shape the bid and ensure it reflects the current and future needs of industry as well protecting critical supply chains in the future.”
The bid has attracted more than 40 letters of support from local businesses, and further support from local chambers of commerce, trade associations, universities and further education providers, according to the LEP.