Agenda item

Freeport Update - Verbal Update


The Committee received an update in regards to the current position in respect of the Freeport, and the processes involved with this work.

It was explained that the Celtic Freeport bid scored highest of the three Welsh bids submitted to UK Government, and since then Officers had been making progress in terms of the delivery element.

After some delays, it was confirmed that the Department for Levelling up Housing and Committees (DLUHC) and Welsh Government had issued draft guidance for this work; and Officers were awaiting for the final detail to be agreed.

Members were informed that the Freeport Team (consisting of representatives from Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Associated British Ports and Milford Haven Port) were currently working with KPMG and the interim Celtic Freeport Chief Executive to draft the outline business case; with hopes to submit at the end of this calendar year.

In terms of floating offshore wind, it was stated that there were no bids submitted by developers in the recent auction process; whilst this raised concerns, Officers had been assured that the process was being revised. It was noted that the process, which included agreeing the contracts for difference, will provide more consideration to the developers next time around.

As previously mentioned, Officers were currently working through the outline business case; part of this included looking into a number of areas particularly around skills, innovation and planning. It was noted that from this, Officers will be drawing up some draft segments to fit within the outline business case.

A discussion took place in regards to the next steps, which were highlighted as follows:

·       Formal submission of the outline business case, and approval from DLUHC and Welsh Government;

·       Treasury approval and tax site designation – Officers had engaged with over 20 land owners across Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire in order to get the tax site agreements in place;

·       Proceed with full business case, with the potential for the Freeport to start trading in late 2024;

·       Release of capital from UK Government to allow Officers to undertake a range of works to infrastructure and feasibility studies


It was explained that the money will be spent across both Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire, however the benefits generated by the Freeport would not be restricted to the two County Boroughs. It was emphasised that the benefits would be realised across the whole of South Wales. 

The Committee were presented with the following current challenges associated with the Freeport development:

·       High level discussions between Welsh and UK Government were taking place in regards to the non-domestic rates, and the proportion of which would end up with the Local Authorities in Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire.

·       The timescales were noted to be quite challenging, as there was a lot of responsibility to deliver heavy documentation in a short period of time. Whilst Officers had the support of consultant teams, there were certain elements of work that could only be carried out from within the Local Authorities themselves.

·       The upcoming General Election in 2024 could have a profound effect on some of the timelines around the Freeport; with the addition that there were differing policies for different governments.

·       The changes at TATA Steelworks; the Freeport would take on a more prominent and important position given this context. There was also a certain amount of uncertainty from this, and significant change.

·       The failure of the latest contract for difference auction that took place where no bids were made. Whilst the failure to secure a bid sent a message to the Government in terms of pricing issues, Officers were conscious that it would also place doubt in the minds of investors. Officers were working closely with industry to try and mitigate this.


The Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire Council concluded that the Freeport brings opportunity for an increase in jobs, that would not otherwise of existed; and had yet to see any evidence of any material displacements being created by the opportunities in the Freeport development.