Businesses on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal could benefit from tax reliefs, a reduction in red tape and increased investment with Freeport status.
Port Salford, an inland port in Eccles which opened in 2016, will be part of the Liverpool City Region's new Freeport announced in the budget on Wednesday.
Up to 10,000 jobs could be created at the site in Salford where a further 320,000sqm of employment space is planned alongside a new rail link – but the developer behind the scheme says its success does not depend on its Freeport status.
Peel L&P now awaits further information from the government about how the Freeport will work and what part Port Salford will play as a customs site.
But the landowner is 'delighted' about the decision to approve the Liverpool City Region’s bid for a Freeport, saying Port Salford 'strengthened' the case.
Salford mayor Paul Dennett, a self-described 'sensible socialist', has also welcomed the news despite concerns about Freeports within Labour ranks.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak says Freeports will regenerate regions across the country which need it most by bringing in investment, trade and jobs.
By relaxing regulatory rules, businesses that operate within a Freeport could cut costs, attracting investment which could potentially create more jobs.
And financial support from the government could accelerate that growth.
But critics say deregulated Freeports could encourage a 'race to the bottom'.
Sarah Longlands, director of think tank IPPR North, says any jobs created in Salford as a result of Freeports would be low-paid and fears these jobs would simply be 'displaced' from elsewhere.
She said: "Companies will see the Freeport and shift their premises there and not actually create new jobs, but just move them from one place to the next."
Sarah says Freeports alone will not 'magically' transform the North of England, calling for a wider industrial strategy from the government to accompany it.
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But she has no doubt that landowners will benefit as property prices rise.
Salford council is set to sign off the next stage of the Port Salford plans on Monday (March 8), swapping land with Peel L&P, some of which is green belt and public open space, so that the construction of a rail link can take place.
The rail terminal would connect to the Chat Moss line westbound, linking it to the national rail network via the West Coast Mainline and the Port of Liverpool.
The 'tri-modal' freight facility and distribution park benefiting from rail, road and sea links has been a 'long-standing' economic priority for Salford council.
Salford's directly-elected mayor Paul Dennett hopes that encouraging industry to make more use of water and rail freight will help take pressure off the region's roads, improve air quality and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
The Labour mayor said Salford will be well placed to receive 'much-needed' investment and support from government for its plans as part of a Freeport.
He said: “Adding Port Salford to the list of Freeport sites shows that government is aware of and is prioritising the project, which will not only keep jobs here in our city and region but will attract further investment from government and industry, from jobs in border control and customs to freight, shipping, exports and imports."
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also welcomed the news about Port Salford, but warned of potential risks that could come with freeports.
Speaking alongside him at a press conference on Wednesday (March 3), Lou Cordwell, co-chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said she was 'delighted' about the announcement which affects Port Salford.
She said: "The reality of where our canal system came from took very strong private sector leadership and investment. This idea that we're creating very investable places with clear propositions and a clear vision is very important.
"Because actually, it's not just any investment. We want the right kind of investment and so we have a vision that makes it very clear about fairer, greener economic recovery and increasingly that's becoming very attractive to larger proportions of the international investment community."
However, Labour MP Barbara Keeley for Worsley and Eccles South, the constituency in which Port Salford is located, was critical of the plans.
She said: “Despite the Chancellor’s rhetoric, there is no evidence that new freeports will create any new jobs in Salford or anywhere else.
"At a time when hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, schemes like this which will simply move jobs around rather than create new jobs are not a genuine solution.
“The development of Port Salford risks inconveniencing people who already live and work in the area as increased traffic blocks up already congested local transport links. Rather than sticking a tax haven in the middle of a disadvantaged area, we need investment in high quality jobs, housing and services for the people of Salford.
“Rather than spending money on gimmicks which are unlikely to make any difference to people’s lives, the government should be focussed on creating good jobs in every region of the UK through supporting businesses and providing training so people have the skills they need.”
Mayor Dennett added: “It’s critical that any delivery of freeports across the UK, seeks to genuinely increase the overall size of the UK’s economy rather than re-aligning our existing economy by simply moving economic activity and employment opportunities, whilst also safeguarding worker’s protections, health and safety standards and ensuring a robust regulatory environment is maintained around money laundering, tax evasion and human trafficking."