The Solent Freeport – an update

You may remember that we wrote a piece way back in March on the Solent Freeport bid, asking just what it might mean for Havant. At the time, we drew a map outlining where we expected the Solent Freeport ‘outer boundary’ to be, since the bid documentation linked to that previous post failed to disclose it.

Well there’s now a website for the Solent Freeport which publicises where the actual boundary will be and we thought it worth bringing to your attention. The one we drew way back in March is on the right, and the official one, which has only just surfaced, is on the left. Not much of a difference, you might say, but a clear shift to westward.

We’re not really surprised by that shift to the west, given that the Solent LEP bid document was heavily weighted towards Southampton, and rather disparaging about Havant.

The newly available ‘official’ map identifies the three clear ‘clusters’ of activity.

The first, and largest, is the Southampton Water Cluster, comprising Associated British Ports (ABP), Solent Gateway (Formerly Marchwood Military Port) , New Forest District Council and, rather curiously, Fawley Waterside. No doubt ABP will once more have their eyes on Dibden Bay for a new container port, making potential use of the relaxation of planning regulations that would accompany a freeport.

The second is the Southampton Airport Cluster will clearly be making use of the recently approved extension to the airport runway.

Thirdly, the Portsmouth Gateway Cluster will be capitalising on the Portsmouth International Port, currently the temporary resting place for Virgin Voyage’s behemoth, ‘Scarlet Lady’, (“she who dwarfs carriers”), and for secure warehousing, Portsmouth City Council’s (PCC) will exploit the Dunsbury Park site which they own, alongside the A3(M) at the top of Hulbert Road here in Havant Borough.

What does Havant get out of this?

Well we might get a bit of tax revenue from Dunsbury Park since while it’s owned by PCC it comes within HBC’s reach for tax purposes.

Could Havant have got more?

Well, we think yes. What have the following companies got in common?

  • Eaton
  • AneticAid
  • Danosa
  • Sartorius
  • Qvis
  • Dunham-Bush
  • DeLonghi – Kenwood -Braun
  • Colt International
  • Lewmar

They all import materials and product from the Far East or Europe, they all export finished goods, they could probably all exploit freeport benefits and they’re just a few of over fifty businesses which operate from the New Lane employment area, the birthplace of Havant’s high tech manufacturing business ‘back in the day’.

It was the attitude and productivity of the West Leigh manufacturing workforce who encouraged IBM, Plessey and Siemens to relocate to Havant during the last commercial regeneration and the same local workforce would rise to the challenge again. A plan to regenerate the New Lane employment area and bring back 21st century science and technology based manufacturing is long overdue. We appeal to HBC to recognise this fact and focus on building an employment base that will lift the standards and bring real opportunities to the young people of the borough.

Here’s a challenge for the councillors – let’s get together and actively engage with the landowners of the New Lane estate and plan something courageous and forward thinking. As an old manufacturing site now ‘landlocked’ by residential properties and within easy walking distance of the town centre, it’s crying out to be regenerated as a centre for high quality, green employment. Throw in some secure warehousing, with a bit of adaptation, Kingsbridge’s Spring Business Park comes to mind, and take the opportunity to the Solent Freeport. Don’t wait for it to come to you, because it won’t!

Doing nothing and letting it get used for more traffic intensive, low grade employment will achieve nothing positive for the town.

Kingsbridge are just one of the landowners sitting on prime real estate in New Lane. We think that if they raised their sights a little higher, we might all benefit.