HAMPSHIRE is on the verge of a major boost which should see thousands of jobs created and millions of pounds ploughed into businesses, roads and transport.

The government is expected to give the final go-ahead to the Solent Freeport initiative by the end of the summer.

That will release £25million to be spent quickly on local projects. And local councils would collect an estimated half a billion pounds in business rates over the next 25 years to plough into improving the area.

READ MORE: Next step for Solent Freeport scheme branded 'tremendous opportunity' for city

The Solent Freeport plan is estimated to be worth 32,000 jobs across the UK, including 16,000 in the Solent.

The freeport was officially launched at the Solent Summit, an event at Southampton’s Horizon Cruise Terminal.

Brian Johnson, chair of Solent Freeport, said the project would make a host of good sites available to businesses.

“We’re hoping we can attract many more businesses in the region,” he said.

“For every job we create here, there will be a similar number of jobs created in the rest of our region and indeed in the rest of the UK.

“It won’t just benefit Solent, it will benefit the UK.”

The freeport plan would establish five “tax sites”, where businesses would pay no business rates for five years:

  • ABP Redbridge;
  • Fawley Waterside;
  • ExxonMobil Fawley;
  • Solent Gateway at Marchwood;
  • The Navigator Quarter, to the north and east of Southampton Airport’s runway’s north end;
  • ABP’s “strategic land reserve” at Southampton Water;
  • and the business park Dunsbury Park, on the A3 north of Portsmouth.

Employers are already in discussions about setting up on some of the sites.

Two customs sites – the Solent Gateway and Portsmouth – will benefit from simplified customs and tariff arrangements.

Councils in the tax site areas would keep future business rates revenue over an agreed threshold – and would be able to borrow against future revenues.

Alastair Welch, ABP’s regional director for Southampton, said the scheme would bring money for better infrastructure, including improving the A326 serving the Marchwood and Fawley sites.

READ MORE: Support from authorities across is 'critical' to development of Solent Freeport

He said: “There are areas which really could do with help and improvement and we want the regeneration of much of South Hampshire through what the freeport is trying to do.”

Six times round-the-world sailor Dee Caffari told the event that the freeport plan was “an adventure where you won’t always make the right decisions”.

“The hard work will pay off. The potential is huge and the rewards will stay with the region way beyond our lifetimes. We’re leaving a legacy way into the future,” she said.

The event also saw the launch of Solent 2050, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) strategy which aims to make the Solent the “UK’s capital of coastal renaissance”, with a thriving marine and maritime economy.

The LEP’s chair, Rachael Randall, said: “Our vision to 2050 is to be a global leader in the maritime and climate change adaptation.”

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