COUNCILS and MPs have come out in support of a bid to create one of the UK’s first freeports in the Solent.

The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a partnership between businesses and local authorities, submitted its freeport bid on February 5.

If the Solent is chosen, it will benefit from tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures and streamlined planning processes to promote regeneration and innovation at ports across a 30 mile area including the Port of Southampton and Southampton Airport.

The government is looking to create 10 freeports across the UK.

Councils and MPs have come out in support, with Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, New Forest District Council and Havant Borough Council, all in favour, as well as eight MPs included in a supporting letter to government.

Eastleigh MP, Paul Holmes, who coordinated the letter, branded the freeport a “tremendously exciting opportunity” for the region.

He added: “The bid combines seaports and our own Southampton airport and would deliver real economic benefits for our area.

“These benefits will also benefit local people with growth, new job opportunities and higher wages.”

Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely was also onboard, saying: “I fully support this bid which, if successful, will help to create jobs, drive investment and regenerate communities.

“A Solent Freeport would create new opportunities for the Island, boosting our economy at a critical time.”

Bid partners estimate that freeport status would create more than 50k jobs and attract £2b in extra investment to the region.

New Forest District Council leader, Cllr Barry Rickman, said: “A freeport would help us rebuild our region’s economy after Covid.

“The bid has the potential to create thousands of new jobs and skills, together with providing local SME businesses with a fantastic opportunity to develop and deliver green growth.”

Eastleigh Borough Council leader, Cllr Keith House, said: “Right the way along the Solent, with two ports and an airport, we are ideally placed to meet the criteria.

“We’re really enthusiastic about this and the challenge is, will the government be prepared to back the South of England instead of towns up North.”

The government is expected to announce the successful areas later this year.