HARWICH’S bid to become a freeport has been approved by the Government.

Freeport East, a group made up of businesses and local authorities, had called on the Government to assign joint freeport status to Harwich and Felixstowe.

Freeport status means areas will benefit from tax reliefs and simplified customs procedures in order to encourage economic activity, something the Government hopes will boost trade following Brexit.

Freeport East estimates it could create 13,000 new jobs and £500million of investment over the next five years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced Harwich and Felixstowe as one of eight new freeports during his budget speech in the House of Commons today.

He said the special economic zones, with different rules, will make it “easier and cheaper to do business”.

He added that they would "unlock billions of pounds of private sector investment, generating trade and jobs, up and down the country".

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Harwich International Port

George Kieffer, chairman of Freeport East, said: "We are delighted to have been chosen by the Chancellor as one of the first new Freeports in the UK since 1984.

"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.”

Freeport East will be centred upon the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port.

Clemence Cheng, executive director of Hutchison Ports, which owns both ports, said: “Freeport East is the perfect location to develop a new Freeport.

"Its position on the main global shipping routes, and with frequent services over to Europe, makes it the ideal place to attract inward investment."

"It has 50 per cent of the UK’s offshore wind capacity on its doorstep and, working with our partners we will help drive developments in green energy for use in the transport sector as well as across the wider economy.”

Tendring Council leader Neil Stock said the move is a “gamer-changer” for the Tendring district.

“This is really exciting news for Tendring, “ said Mr Stock.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Welcome - Harwich MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, George Kieffer, chairman of Freeport East, and Tendring Council leader Neil Stock

“We don’t know the exact details yet, but the wider hinterland will also be able to benefit from the special tax exceptions.

“This will create jobs and employment in Tendring on a long-term basis.

“This is a real game-changer like nothing we have seen in a generation.

"It has the potential to really turn around Harwich, which has been down in the doldrums for quite a few years.”

Harwich and North Essex MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said the move would not have happened if not for Brexit and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He said: “This is fantastic news for Harwich and for the UK's net-zero ambitions.

"I am so grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this, particularly Hutchison Ports, Tendring and Essex Councils and all the political parties in Harwich which have supported this.

"Ever since the Bathside Bay proposal got delayed, there has been a paralysis over the economic development around Harwich. Now we can move forward again.

"This will bring new business and new jobs to Harwich, and the Hydrogen Green Energy hub will be a huge boost for kickstarting the decarbonisation of container shipping.“

The other freeports are East Midlands Airport, the Humber region, the Liverpool City region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.