Business leaders back Great Western Freeport as world class trade and jobs hub

By Jamie Hill - 17 February 2021


Leading business figures from across the West of England have published an open letter yesterday (16 February) stating united support for the Great Western Freeport bid to Government.

For the attention of: 

The Right Honourable Rishi Sunak, MP 

HM Treasury 

The Correspondence and Enquiry Unit 

1 Horse Guards Road 




Dear Chancellor, 

As organisations responsible for economic leadership and supporting businesses who invest and create jobs across our regions, we strongly support the government’s ambition to create a new era of global trade in the UK and enable stronger, successful and more resilient, inclusive local economies.  

With a deep-sea port at its heart, the proposed Great Western Freeport is perfectly placed to realise this ambition, as a world class hub for global trade and investment. In doing so, it can deliver the government’s industrial strategy and drive to rebalance and level up economic growth across the UK. 

The reasons for this are strong and supported by partners working across the West of England and the wider South West. They include:

  • A Freeport would lead to significant economic growth for the UK, which independent analysis estimates to be worth almost £6 billion a year. 
  • Independent analysis commissioned by the West of England Combined Authority also shows that the Great Western Freeport could create up to 50,000 jobs in the region and 90,000 jobs nationally. 
  • We have over 480 ha of ‘shovel ready’ brownfield regeneration sites, with Gravity as an example, offering clear and accessible opportunities which are immediately deliverable to enable a fast-track response. 
  • The Great Western Freeport has world class connectivity and can create a gateway to global markets, enabled by 5G.  
  • Bristol Port is strategically placed on US and Asian trade routes. This coupled with the Freeport financial regime will help leverage new investment into the UK to Build Back Better.  
  • A Freeport would bring new opportunities to business, with opportunities and space to start-up, grow, diversify and adapt, to create new products and services, and form and integrate into new supply chains in sectors fit for the future. The West of England is a hot bed of activity in accelerating responses to climate change, leading on digital innovation, robotics, advanced propulsion systems, aerospace, composites and fusion. 
  • Our region has an exceptional track record of delivery, with the capacity and capability to kick start a green economic recovery, leading out on a new era of industrial revolution. The Great Western Freeport is underpinned by our international reputation for innovation and engineering, and ability to drive new clean growth opportunities in manufacturing, trade and inward investment. 
  • Our high performing academic institutions at Bristol and Bath universities will lead to research and development, innovation and technological advancement. Our further education colleges including Institutes of Technology, would provide new skills and training, with thousands of new apprenticeships provided - directly connecting people to opportunities, targeting the most excluded through local labour agreements.  
  • Hinkley Point C is well underway, and we now look to the Freeport to sustain employment and secure a legacy, creating a transition for the workforce to retrain and redeploy. 
  • These opportunities would extend across the wider South West region, creating an economic focal point of national and international significance. Thousands of jobs and opportunities would be created through investment in sites earmarked for economic growth – including in enterprise zones and enterprise areas in Bristol, Filton, Avonmouth, North Somerset and Somerset.
Above all, we support this bid because we can see the economic benefits it will bring to the areas in which we are based. 

A Great Western Freeport is what levelling up looks like up close.

Our region is ready to deliver with the support of many businesses across the West of England and wider South West.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Bellamy – Chairman, This is Gravity Ltd 

Katherine Bennett – Chair, Western Gateway 

Richard Bonner - UK Commercial & Operations Director, Arcadis & West of England LEP Board Member 

Prof Hugh Brady – Vice-Chancellor & President, University of Bristol 

David Brown – Chief Executive, The Bristol Port Company & West of England LEP Board Member 

Nigel Cann – Hinkley Point C Delivery Director, EDF Energy 

John Chaplin – Chair, SevernNet 

Heather Cooper – Chief People Officer, Hargreaves Lansdown & West of England LEP Board Member 

Neil Douglas – Director, Viper Innovations & West of England LEP Board Member 

James Durie – Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber & West of England Initiative, Business West 

Katherine Finn – Assurance Partner, PwC & West of England LEP Deputy Chair 

Kevin Hamblin – Group CEO & Executive Principal, South Gloucestershire & Stroud College 

Stephen Henagulph – CEO, Somerset Chamber of Commerce 

Angela Hicks – Chief Executive, North Somerset Enterprise Agency 

Dave Lees – Chief Executive, Bristol Airport 

Andrew Leighton-Price - Chair, West of England Institute of Technology 

Muir Macdonald – Chair, IOD SW 

Zoe Metcalfe - Director, Value Shift & West of England LEP Board Member 

Lee Nathan – Regional Chairman South West, Federation of Small Business  

Richard Oldfield – CEO, National Composite Centre 

Dick Penny – Creative Consultant & West of England LEP Board Member 

Laurel Penrose – Principal & CEO, Bath College 

Dr Paul Phillips - Principal & CEO, Weston College 

Marty Reid – Director, Set Squared & The Engine Shed 

Jon Reynolds - Chief Executive Officer, GDS Digital & West of England LEP Board Member 

Prof Sue Rigby – Vice Chancellor, Bath Spa University 

Joanne Rumley – Partner, Foot Anstey & West of England LEP Board Member 

Colin Skellett – Group Chief Executive, YTL 

Natasha Swinscoe - CEO, West of England Academic Health Science Network & West of England LEP Board Member 

Nigel Toon – CEO, Graphcore 

Colin Turner – CEO, West of England Aerospace Forum 

Prof Steve West – Vice Chancellor, University of the West of England & West of England LEP Chair 

Prof Ian White – Vice Chancellor, University of Bath 

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