Plymouth and South Devon Freeport

Learn about the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport which aims to boost the local economy, attract investment and create thousands of jobs.

The Plymouth and South Devon Freeport aims to boost the local economy, attract millions of pounds worth of investment, stimulate development on existing employment land and create thousands of jobs.

It was given the green light by the government at the end of 2022 and now work is underway to develop the Freeport to benefit our businesses and local residents.

To find out more, visit the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport website.

Statement from Executive Member for Economic Development, Commercial Strategy and Governance, Councillor John Birch.

When I was an opposition Member, I was wary of the Council’s involvement in the formation of the Freeport and it subsequently entering into agreements with the government, Devon County Council and Plymouth City Council in 2022.

Since becoming an Executive Member of the Council and having looked into all aspects of the Freeport agreements, I have come to the conclusion the Council’s involvement provides South Hams with future benefits and opportunities such as the following:

  • The Freeport will bring new investment to the area, projected to be over £300 million, and an estimated 3,500 jobs across Plymouth and South Hams, together with enhancements to skills and infrastructure. This is one of the largest economic development projects undertaken in South Hams.
  • All business rates paid by businesses operating in the Freeport within South Hams will be retained for the benefit of the Freeport. The normal arrangement provides for 14% to be retained by the Council. The 100% retention results in a potential fund of £24million over 25 years for investment in the Freeport-related regeneration and growth projects.

Furthermore, the Freeport project provides an opportunity for South Hams District Council to shape the goals and the work of the Freeport to align it more closely to the priorities of the Council. In particular, we see an opportunity for clearer and stronger Freeport outcomes that would help the environment, the green economy, local skills, well-paid jobs, small business, and social outcomes.

The Council will ensure that the workings, activities and governance of the Freeport and the Council’s involvement are open and transparent to all, to eliminate any doubts people may have as to the integrity and economic effectiveness of this project.

I look forward to the Council making this project a success to benefit South Hams.

South West Launchpad - Marine and Maritime Innovation

Innovate UK has opened a pioneering funding programme in the South West, to accelerate innovation and growth in the marine and maritime field.

Under the Launchpad programme, businesses and researchers can bid for Innovate UK grants ranging from £25k to £1 million for business-led projects that build on the region’s strengths.

The funding will support projects with businesses that are active, or growing their activities, in the marine and maritime innovation cluster in the Great South West – covering Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

You can read more about it on the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport website.


Logo for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport from the selections below.

Plymouth and South Devon Freeport - FAQs

What is a Freeport?

Freeports are national hubs for global trade and investment. Businesses that are part of the Freeport gain all the usual benefits from investment in the UK and can also take advantage of a range of other customs, tax, infrastructure and innovation incentives.

Which councils are involved in the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport?

The Freeport is a dynamic partnership between us, Plymouth City Council and Devon County Council, working alongside a wide range of private sector organisations.

Where is the Freeport?

Three sites make up the Freeport at Sherford, Langage and South Yard (in Plymouth). You can see the map here.

Why is the Freeport important to Plymouth and South Devon?

Freeports have three strategic objectives:

  • To be national hubs for global trade and investment.
  • To be hotbeds of innovation.
  • To promote regeneration.

Our Freeport is an exciting opportunity for the region. It will enable us to further capitalise on our area’s existing strengths in marine, defence, and advanced manufacturing and support the growing UK space sector.

What are the economic benefits?

It is estimated that the economic benefits of the Freeport will be £300 million over 25 years. It will also support technological innovation, business growth and development, and create skilled and well-paid jobs - these are the measures that we will use to test the overall benefit of the Freeport.

What are the governance arrangements?

The Freeport consists of the following elements:

  • Plymouth City Council as the Accountable Body will receive and allocate the seed capital to support the delivery of the capital programme.
  • The Freeport Company is a Company Limited by Guarantee established by the founder members who are the local authority partners.
  • The Freeport Company will have the autonomy to operate and run the Freeport within its delegated powers.
  • The local authorities will be responsible for delivering the capital works funded by Freeport seed capital and local public sector match generated through retained business rates, and for holding landowners to account through the Landowner Agreements.
  • The landowners will be responsible for delivering their individual sites in accordance with the Landowners Agreements.

Can South Hams District Council come out of the Freeport and what would be the implications if the Council did?

The Council has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the government along with a partnership agreement with Devon County Council and Plymouth City Council - both of which impose legal obligations on the Council. As a partner in the Freeport, South Hams will benefit from economic growth, investment, skills and innovation. Any withdrawal from the Freeport will result in not only the Council being in breach of its obligations with resultant costs and damages but also the loss of the direct advantages and opportunities that Freeport status supports.

How much is South Hams District Council borrowing for the Freeport and how is this being paid for?

The Council report in March 2022 stated that we will borrow £4.625million, totalling £267,000 every year at an interest rate of 2.5%. The latest financial modelling in September 2023 shows this has increased to a total of £5.125m and £366,000 yearly, with an interest rate of 4.5% over the 23 remaining years.

This will be paid for by the business rates income generated by the Freeport, so the investment will pay for itself and the Freeport will be self-financing. Although the costs of borrowing have risen with the increase in interest rates, the forecast business rates income has also increased, because it is linked to inflation. As a Council, we haven’t borrowed any finance for this project yet; this is likely to happen sometime after April 2025.

The rate of inflation has reached the highest level for over 40 years. How has this affected things like construction costs and is it still affordable?

We aren’t affected by the rising costs in construction, because we are only purchasing land within the Freeport area and we aren’t delivering any construction projects.

The March 2022 Council report stated that of the £314 million to be invested in the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport, some £250 million would come from private sector investment. Has private sector financing now been found?

The additional private sector investment referenced, is the estimated value of development that the private sector will undertake in the Freeport sites.

When will the latest updated financial modelling be presented to Council and available to the public?

The Audit and Governance Committee of South Hams District Council was requested by the Executive of the Council to set up a Task and Finish Group to assess the benefits, risks, and opportunities of the Council’s involvement in the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport. The Task and Finish Group will be presenting its report to the Executive on 30 November 2023. The agenda will be publicly available a week before the meeting on our website.

What are the planning implications?

Planning policy for development within the Freeport area is governed by a planning document known as the Joint Local Plan, which includes the areas covered by Plymouth City Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council.  Land at Sherford and Langage is already allocated in the plan for employment generating purposes, so the Freeport does not represent any change in the agreed planning policy for these areas.

Will green hydrogen still be produced at Langage?

The green hydrogen bid was submitted to government by Carlton Power, with the support of the Freeport and the three local authorities. The government approved it to progress to the final round. We wait with interest to hear if the bid is successful in this final stage. You can read more here.

Why haven’t we heard more about the Freeport from the Council?

The decision to proceed with the Freeport proposition was made in public at the Council meeting on 31 March 2022. The Freeport is currently still in its infancy. There are legitimate questions which have been raised concerning the Freeport and with the agreement of the Council’s new Leader, the Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee has been undertaking a thorough review of the risks, benefits and opportunities of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport.

A further full public report will be presented to the Council’s Executive meeting on 30 November 2023. It is expected that a report with any further recommendations will go to Full Council on 14 December 2023. Members of the public will be able to join this meeting online or in person.

Agendas and reports will be available on our website a week before the meetings.