As a boy, my favourite book was Richard Scarry’s classic “What do people do all day?”. Fabulously vivid illustrations of ‘Busytown’ and what went on there. People building houses, working in factories, creating new roads, loading ships in the dock – it had it all and the story was told with great humour and insight. The cutaways into power stations, hospitals, homes and shops drew you in and were both insightful and full of character.
I think this is why I love infrastructure and real assets. Things that you can touch and feel. Things that have a clear and obvious benefit and purpose.
While I’m doing full-on confessional, ports have always been top of the list. You’ve got to enjoy the size and scale of the ships, cranes and the quayside. The excitement of goods and people coming from all over the world. And the order with which it all happens: tugs, gantries, container ships, pickers with people buzzing about their individual tasks but all working in harmony.
So I’m excited about freeports and the Chancellor’s initiative to create 10 new centres of trade across the UK. Bids went in on Friday 5 February 2021 and the competition is fierce. The winners will benefit from tax breaks, investment funding and a package of measures to help them become pre-eminent centres of trade. Camargue is working to support the Thames Freeport bid of which Thames Enterprise Park is a vital component.
Rishi has always liked freeports. Boris sees them as part of post-Brexit infrastructure to support a new global attitude to trade.
Ambitions are running high and so are expectations. Freeports are supposed to deliver on the economy, on levelling up, on regeneration and across a spectrum of social, environmental and business policy objectives.
From our insight and work on the Thames Freeport bid, it’s evident that there is every opportunity to walk the walk here and not just talk the talk. That bid has the potential to create more than 25,000 new jobs across a development and trading footprint of in excess of 1,700 acres. Much of the focus is on green industries, from Ford’s intentions for battery tech at its former diesel engine plant in Dagenham and the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham’s aim to become the green capital of London. To Thames Enterprise Park’s own initiatives for hydrogen and its wider clean energy hub.
Great Britain is a maritime nation and 90 per cent of our traded goods come in by sea. Investing in the ports that enable this trade and pairing these ports with a tax and regulatory framework that amplifies their economic and social potential is sound thinking.
Maybe it’s because my views are still shaped by Richard Scarry’s illustrations. Or maybe it’s because it makes total sense to nurture these crucial assets and give them every opportunity to achieve even more.
The future’s bright, the future’s freeports.
Ben Copithorne is a director at Camargue