COUNCIL leaders are being asked to back a bid to make areas of the BCP conurbation, including Bournemouth Airport, a freeport despite full details of the plans not being available.

BCP Council is working with organisations, including the Hurn-based airport and Poole port officials, to formalise a submission ahead of the government’s February deadline. The local authority’s cabinet members are being asked to sign off £50,000 for the bid.

A report from Chris Shephard, BCP Council director of development, says: “Given the timescales involved, it isn’t possible to fully detail the contents of the bid at the time of writing this report.”

However, Mr Shephard goes on to say: “Freeports boost the local economy and create new jobs.

“By approving the Council’s inclusion in a bid to Government for freeport status, it creates an opportunity to bring investment and jobs to the area.

“This will help to deliver the council’s vision, specifically in relation to its objectives around creating dynamic places. If successful it will also help to boost the private sector after Brexit and as the economy rebounds after Covid-19.”

Freeport status in simple terms streamlines the import process, incentivising use of entry points including the airport and attract trade.

The report was due to be considered by the overview and scrutiny panel yesterday before going to cabinet.

Deputy council leader Cllr Philip Broadhead said the BCP “city region” was “perfectly placed” to support the Government’s freeports plans.

“We have the ambition and drive backed up by a strong strategic partnership to bring forward a sustainable proposal for freeport status,” said Cllr Broadhead.

“Our advancement in technology and building on the success of our internationally recognised Smart Place programme can provide the digital infrastructure needed, and open up opportunities that could spearhead the logistics around movement of goods and freight/trucks, not only supporting our local area but our regional communities too.

“It is this advancement around digital technology that will also enable gigabit speed connectively for businesses therefore positioning our area as an ideal place for businesses to invest.”

Cllr Broadhead said the airport and port had the required “infrastructure” to support the plans.

He added: “We are absolutely committed to championing our local economy as we both deal with the pandemic and plan for the future, and the opportunity to bring investment and create jobs through developing a freeport status will provide long-term benefit for residents and future generations.”

BCP Council Labour members have expressed their opposition to the plans, arguing that freeports lack “oversight and regulations, based on the claim that absence of such regulations would attract investment and new businesses".