Author: Rhiannon Fearn - Freeport Resident Action Group
The Government’s Agenda
Eight Freeports were announced by the Government last Year. Most recently they have been promoted in the Levelling-up White Paper, released Feb 2nd, as a way to increase prosperity and investment in the more deprived areas of the UK.
(Picture: The proposed site for EMIP. One of three sites proposed for the East Midlands.)
A closer look at the purpose and plan for these low tax, tariff free zones puts into question what they mean by the word ‘prosperous’. What will these Freeports mean for local communities and UK citizens?
The real cost
Freeports are estimated to cost the UK Tax Payer £50million per year from 2022 onwards*. These huge expanses of distribution hubs and warehouses will tarmac over our green and opens spaces. Carbon emissions during construction alone will cause an eye watering contribution to our ever-increasing pollution problem.
(Picture: The site at EMA. One of three sites proposed for the East Midlands.)
Once the wildlife and eco systems that inhabited these areas are cemented over and long gone, the sites, serviced by HGV’s, trains, warehouse vehicles, commuter traffic and cargo planes will continue to pump pollution into the atmosphere.
If we look at EMIP (East Midlands Intermodal Park), just one of the three sites proposed for South Derbyshire; 5.2 million square foot will be given over to a site that will operate 24/7. Adding air, noise and light pollution 24 hours per day. Increasing congestion on the A38, A50 and local roads, increasing local flood risk and wiping out local wildlife habitats for some of our most at risk species, such as the House Sparrow and Sky Lark.
The trade-off for local communities
The promise of jobs is promoted by local MPs as the main benefit for local people and communities. The number of jobs quoted is based on the rudimental equation that ‘X amount of warehousing = X amount of jobs’. Previous projects have proven that this equation simply does not materialise. In reality Freeports will bring some low value, low skill jobs, many of which will be automated within the next 10 years. Crucially most of the jobs will not be new, additional vacancies as MPs are quick to claim, they will simply move from an existing area into the Freeport.
The benefit to Big Business
And so, what are the benefits? Well, Freeports offer businesses a transitional area to import and export their goods, and receive reduced tariffs and tax reliefs.
But remember, business will move to a Freeport zone. It’s not additional business, it’s existing business moving sites - not really the levelling-up ideal. They also don’t necessarily manufacture within a Freeport, they simply move goods around, hardly the prosperity engine we are being told. So, whilst ‘good’ for business, Freeports aren’t so good for communities.
In summary, Freeports will see yet more of our landscape destroyed for commercial and corporate gain. Wildlife pushed further and further away from our communities. The health and wellbeing of both people and the environment local to these sites is being compromised in order to provide businesses with even more tax reliefs. The cost to us as citizens is not just financial, it’s so much bigger and will have far reaching consequences.
This is not progress. This is not the legacy we should be leaving for future generations. Freeports were tried in 2012 and abandoned by the Government. In 2022, when air pollution is recognised as a National Health Emergency, we do not have the luxury of time to ‘try’ these Freeports again.
If you would like to know more, or to be part of the conversation, you can follow Freeport Resident Action Group on Facebook and/or @FRAGderbyshire on Twitter.
Alternatively, you can join our mailing list by sending a request to FRAGetwall@gmail.com
(Picture: The site at Etwall Common where EMIP is proposed.)
* UK Government reveals Freeport sites, but OBR says they won’t raise economic activity | trans.info