THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Neath Port Talbot Council, Karen Jones, has praised the work of the local authority, following the announcement of the successful Freeport bid which was described as ‘truly transformational’ after it was granted to the borough this week.
The news came after Welsh Government announced that two areas of Wales would be named as Freeports, with a potential to create more than 20,000 new jobs and billions of pounds worth of investments over the next seven years.
The joint bid between the the ports of Port Talbot and Milford Haven, which was submitted under the name of the Celtic Freeport, was announced as successful alongside a second Welsh bid in The Port of Holyhead on Anglesey.
It could see the development of a large offshore floating wind-farm in the Celtic Sea, alongside the development of new hydrogen technology that backers believe could generate more than £5.5 billion for the area.
Freeports are special areas within the UK’s borders where different economic regulations apply, such as tax incentives for eligible businesses within them. They also offer simplified customs procedures, and streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment in the areas close to them.
Following the announcement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the new Freeports in Wales would see opportunities for people in Anglesey, Port Talbot, and Milford Haven go from strength to strength.
Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, Karen Jones, said she was proud to have been a part of the project that could provide such a massive boost to the area.
She said: “You have days when the sun shines and you look forward to your day, and today is definitely one of those as far as I’m concerned.
“Our vision is that Port Talbot will play a significant role in the manufacturing of these enormous wind turbines that will be needed out in the Celtic Sea as part of this drive towards net zero, and we’re thrilled to have been awarded it.
“It was clear to see the opportunity for local businesses to be able to supply services into that process here, and we’ve already had talks with trade unions, colleges and universities about how we can make sure local people and businesses benefit from the enormous investment that will now be made in the area.
“We had a call yesterday with Welsh Government officials who said we put in a very strong bid, and we’re also delighted that Anglesey were awarded the Freeport as well as it’s really good news for Wales.”
Ms Jones, who has been the chief executive of the county borough since taking over from Steve Phillips in 2020, went on to discuss the next steps the two councils would now have to take for the work on the Celtic Freeport to get under way.
She went on: “We now have to prepare an outline business case which will start to unlock some of the financial benefits, particularly around the tax side of things, but also to release the funds we need to support the work we have to do as partners.
“That should take around four months to put in, and within the next twelve months we’d be looking to get the final business case through the treasury mechanisms to unlock the rest of the investment, including £25m worth of capital investment, and £1million from partners for getting the Freeport up and running.
“There’s a lot of work to do to get it together but also to start mobilising the Freeport company that will need to be set up to bring this investment into the area.”
Deputy leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Alun Llewelyn, said: “We are delighted to hear this news this week and I really think it reflects the quality of the bid and the strength of the Celtic Freeport partnership that was formed some months ago.
“We believe this is going to be truly transformational for the whole of Neath Port Talbot, south west Wales, and beyond. It’s crucial in terms of developing the offshore capacity of the Celtic Sea but beyond that it will be a real catalyst for businesses in our area to be a part of the supply chain.”
Labour Leader for Neath Port Talbot, Rob Jones said: “I’m delighted that the UK Government has accepted the Neath Port Talbot and Milford Haven bid. It’s an exciting prospect for renewable energy, together with the jobs it will bring and the investment within the Port Talbot community. It’s taken a long time but I’m glad the announcement has now been made.”