Giant Freeport Planned for Dagenham and South Essex

Times

One the most-eye-catching submissions, and one that echoes the much-derided, rhetorical catch-all for a potential post-Brexit Britain of “Singapore-upon-Thames”, is a joint venture between the container hub of London Gateway, owned by Dubai Ports World, and Tilbury, the commodities port owned by the Forth Ports group seven miles upstream. In an innovative partnership, it is teaming with Ford Dagenham, once one of Britain’s most important motor factories, as a satellite extension of the freeport a further dozen or so miles inland.

The Thames Freeport bid says that 25,000 jobs are the prize, along with the regeneration of 1,700 acres — seven million sq m, or the size of 2,500 football pitches — for commercial use in the development of renewable energy, construction materials processing and fabrication, industrial manufacturing, distribution and logistics, as well as the next generation of automotive technologies.

Ford, the giant American carmaker, is on board as it eyes the opportunity to transform its British interests. It hasn’t built a car at the old home of the Ford Escort for nearly 20 years and Dagenham has become its manufacturing centre for diesel engines for its overseas-built Transit vans, a technology increasingly time-limited as Britain leads Europe toward the elimination of the internal combustion engine.

“As part of Thames Freeport, we expect to develop Dagenham as a technology spoke for electrified, zero-emission and autonomous technologies,” Graham Hoare, chairman of Ford of Britain, said.

The south Essex borough of Thurrock, in which London Gateway and Tilbury are located, is in the top 10 per cent of Britain’s communities struggling with deprivation, suffering high rates of unqualified adults and unemployment. Barking and Dagenham is the most deprived London borough and the fifth most deprived local authority in the country, with high rates of benefits claimants and low rates of economic activity.

“This is an area of significant deprivation and [workforce] skills are much lower than the national average,” Schulze said. “Thames Freeport is a chance to level up the area.”

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