Agenda item

Endorsement of the Borough Council's role in the East Midlands Freeport

The report of the Chief Executive is attached.


The Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson, presented the report of the Chief Executive concerning the Borough Council’s role in the East Midlands Freeport.


Councillor Robinson summarised that the Government had allowed the East Midlands to proceed to Freeport status in March 2021, the outline business case had been submitted in September 2021 with the full Business Case submitted in March 2022.  The Cabinet had received a report in February 2022 which gave a commitment to report to the Council seeking approval to appoint a Director of the Borough Council to the Freeport Board. 


In moving the recommendation, Councillor Robinson reminded Councillors that the Freeport was a very important vehicle to attract high quality new jobs into the area, which would also regenerate the Power Station which was due to close in 2024 and would attract innovative new businesses to the Borough, with a particular focus on green energy.  It would also offer significant opportunity to work with universities to conduct research into new technologies.  The site was uniquely located by the River Trent, East Midlands Airport, the M1 and the HS2 route. 


Councillor Edyvean seconded the recommendation in the report and reserved the right to speak.


Councillor Walker, on behalf of the Labour Group, said that she supported the recommendations in the report but remained deeply concerned about the Freeport’s ability to deliver on the promises made, especially the creation of 61,000 new jobs.  She added that she was concerned that the entire project was ideologically based which had the potential to fall short of the promises made and impact adversely on the wealth of local communities. She drew attention to the community wealth building model which sought to invest in the communities and businesses already operating in the Borough and employing local people, rather than attracting multinational corporations that continued to pay zero tax in the places in which they operated. She ended by saying that the Labour Group would continue to push for good quality employment for local communities.


Councillor Jones recognised the level and complexity of work done to reach this stage and supported the recommendations in the report with the following caveats and reservations.  He said that he was sceptical about the practicalities of the Freeport which was located on three disconnected sites. He recognised that the Development Corporation was the most important element and agreed that the power station site needed development.  However, he added that he hoped that engineering and production operations would start on the sites so as to reduce the Country’s dependence on China.


Councillor R Mallender explained that his concerns for the Freeport related to the potential for tax free status for businesses, the misuse of Freeports in other parts of the world and the potential harm to wildlife/ trafficking of animals.  However, despite the reservations, he did note that it was important that the Borough Council had a seat at the Freeport Company so would support the recommendations in the report.


Councillor Thomas said that despite her views on the Government’s agenda to promote development, she recognised that the East Midlands needed to get its fair share along with everyone else and Rushcliffe should be part of this.  She highlighted, however, that she was concerned about the impact on country roads around the site which needed to be considered, along with the need for sustainable access through cycle routes and public transport to the employment created by the Freeport for all areas of Rushcliffe, especially those which met the housing need. In addition, she asked that there was a need to have the net zero carbon emissions goals at the forefront of the development.


Councillor Robinson explained that the position of Director on the Freeport Board was linked to the position of Leader of the Council and would remain with that position should the incumbent change.


Councillor Robinson challenged the opposition leader’s comments regarding businesses paying zero tax.  He informed Council that the businesses would pay Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty and a huge investment from this would be going into the area.  He stated that the innovative green technology that would be established within the development should be welcomed and that the investment in high quality jobs would also help address the cost-of-living crisis. He added that bringing manufacturing and research businesses into the development would be a key focus.  He acknowledged that investment in the infrastructure near the site was needed to address the potential impact on Junction 24 of the M1 and access to the site.


It was proposed by Councillor Robinson and seconded by Councillor Edyvean and RESOLVED that


a)     the Council join the Freeport company (East Midlands Freeport) to be incorporated 1 June 2022 and, in doing so, enter into the Members Agreement; and


b)     the Leader of the Council be approved to act as a Director of East Midlands Freeport.

Supporting documents: