It’s all happening (being done to us) out here on the estuary

In the budget that was delivered on Wednesday 3 March, it was announced that Thurrock’s bid to become a freeport was successful. The bid covered the Thames Enterprise Park, the London Gateway port, Tilbury 2 and Tilbury docks, and Ford at Dagenham. This is how the announcement has been reported in the local media: Council chief and ports bosses praised by MP for helping bring ‘a share of the riches’ to Thurrock and: Today’s green light for Thurrock Thames Freeport should be massive economic boost for local community say business leaders. Seven other freeports across the UK were also announced in the budget

This is a basic explanation of how a freeport works from TechRound: How Do Free Ports Work? Bear in mind this is from a business friendly publication so it’s a business friendly explanation! This paragraph from the piece neatly explains why freeports are attractive to the business community: In short, free ports work by providing benefits for businesses involved in importing and re-exporting, with the country’s normal rules for tax and customs not applying to free port zones. This enables imports to come into free ports more easily than other areas of the country, with no tariffs applied, and simpler requirement for customs documentation. If this is the mode of operation, it may well be case there won’t be a massive increase in freight on an already overloaded road network in the region.

25,000 jobs have been promised. For sure, the creation of skilled, well paid jobs is welcome. What’s not welcome are lower paid, precarious jobs. Whatever kind of jobs are going to be created, the point is that the workers will be making journeys to and from them. That’s a heck of a lot of extra traffic on an already congested road network. With talk of running the proposed KenEx tram link down to London Gateway plus an enhanced interchange at Stanford-le-Hope, public transport may take some of the load off the roads but it won’t make a significant impact. Given that the port already operates 24/7, the question has to be asked, will local public transport networks also be operating 24/7?

This post is our initial reaction. Obviously, there’s a lot involved in this and the implications for the area we cover will be quite profound so we will be returning to this issue in the future. Our thoughts on reading about the proposal in the lead up to the budget and the reaction since the announcement can be summed thus – was there ever a conversation with the people of Thurrock about the freeport bid and what it would mean for the borough?

We keep our ears pretty close to the ground and we don’t remember being asked what we thought about the proposal let alone have any of our concerns about it’s impact addressed. It may well be something that a fair few people end up supporting. On the other hand, it may end up as something a lot of people will be cursing. The point is that yet again it’s something that’s being done to Thurrock (and Dagenham) rather than something developed in conjunction with the people who live here. There’s only so much of this people are prepared to take…

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