Forest MP warns that upgrading A326 is now 'absolutely imperative'
By Ben Craig
Lymington Times – 5 March 2021
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has approved a bid for a Solent freeport which includes part of the New Forest in a reduced tax and regulation zone which supporters claim could bring in £2bn of investment and 52,000 jobs to the region. As reported in the A&T, the submission was led by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership and would include Marchwood industrial estate and Exxon at Fawley. BCP also submitted a bid, including Bournemouth Airport and the port of Poole, but was not named in the Budget among the eight successful locations.
The Solent freeport will also include Southampton, its airport and a site in Havant. It will bring tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures and a streamlined planning processes to promote regeneration and innovation.
New Forest District Council leader Cllr Barry Rickman, a Solent LEP board member, reacted:
“Today's announcement is fantastic news for the Solent area and our economy. As a coastal area, we have communities that have been very badly impacted by the pandemic and today's news represents an opportunity for us to start to recover and create much needed new jobs in those areas. Over the longer-term, we see the Solent freeport as an investment in all our futures that will enable us to secure investment in new technologies, sectors and environmental innovation.”
“We look forward to working with government over the coming months to further develop the Solent Freeport for the benefit of our local businesses and communities.”
New Forest East MP Julian Lewis welcomed the announcement but warned of its impact on the busy A326 and the future of any developments at Dibden Bay. He said:
“The awarding of freeport status should undoubtedly give our area a valuable and open-ended economic boost.
“Coupled with the major Fawley Waterside new town, it makes major upgrading of the A326 absolutely imperative, and – as always – we must closely scrutinise any proposals for the future of Dibden Bay.”
The other freeports are: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Thames, and Teesside.
A Solent LEP spokesperson said the proposal “has the potential” to attract £2bn investment and create 52,000 jobs. The proposal also includes plans to establish a dedicated Solent Freeport Green Growth Institute to provide a centre of excellence in green skills and jobs. Solent LEP chair Brian Johnson added:
“Today's announcement represents the start of a new era for the Solent as we begin our work with government to create jobs, drive innovation and build sustainable, long-term opportunities now and in the future.”