West of England’s freeport hopes dashed, but £4.1m transport investment welcomed

Photo shows: Avonmouth Docks
Avonmouth port – Large

The West of England Combined Authority saw its hopes for a Freeport dashed in yesterday’s budget, but has welcomed £4.1 million investment in 2021-22 to support its transport ambitions.  

Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “I know I am not alone in being bitterly disappointed that our bid for the Great Western Freeport was not selected, and I still believe the strength of our region and economy could have made us an exemplar of how modern freeports could be a success. We had widespread support across the region for the bid which the Government have told us met their criteria, so I look forward to a prompt and detailed explanation from ministers about why they did not take our bid forward. Nevertheless, thanks to our regional recovery plan, we are bringing forward our own schemes and plans to secure our recovery, help businesses create decent, well- paid jobs and renew our economy by supporting our region’s strengths.” 

This £4.1 million for transport is only being made available to combined authorities and will help to fund work to reduce car usage and improve air quality by getting more people to walk, cycle and use public transport. 

Tim Bowles, has welcomed the funding, and also welcomed Government’s plans to extend the furlough and self-employment income support schemes, and more help for cultural organisations, retail, hospitality and leisure/ tourism businesses. 

Many of the Budget announcements support the aims of the West of England Recovery Plan which sets out measures to help businesses adapt to the new economic landscape and improve resilience, as well as support for residents to develop new skills, training and employment opportunities. 

Led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the Local Enterprise Partnership, £9.4m has already been committed to range of programmes supporting the Regional Recovery Plan, taking the Combined Authority’s total investment in businesses and skills to over £100m over the next four years. 

Tim said: “I am really pleased to see this significant investment to fund our transport ambitions, which is only possible because we have a combined authority. As the West of England’s population increases, so too does the strain on our transport network. We want our region to be less reliant on cars with better air quality and more people walking, cycling and using public transport.  

“There have been a lot of excellent schemes announced by the Chancellor at the Budget which will help support jobs and secure our region’s economy, particularly the initiatives to keep taxes low for struggling businesses and families. Schemes like Help to Grow will also link with my own recovery plans and make sure that the West of England is able to build back strongly. I am pleased to see that our vital hospitality and construction sectors will be receiving specific support as this is something that I have been calling for and the need for it has been reinforced by my Regional Recovery Taskforce.