A GOVERNMENT Minister who visited Teesport yesterday said that without the Teesside Freeport a wind turbine factory 'would most likely be in France' instead of Teesside.

Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, visited the Teesworks site in Redcar ahead of initial operations beginning later this month. Mrs Whately took a tour of the site with the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

The Exchequer Secretary said that approval at the Budget for Teesside Freeport to begin initial operations this month marks the beginning of an exciting chapter for the North East.

Mrs Whately said: "I came to see for myself the Freeport site, the first of our three Freeports in the country. Nothing beats coming and seeing on the ground.

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"I've seen some of the stuff that's going to be demolished. To see the scale of the site for myself and then being able to imagine how in a few years time it's going to look so different. The one thing that's been really clear from seeing around the site is the infrastructure that there is here and how bringing so many things together in one place can make it a really great site for businesses and industry to locate.

"The GE plan is a very specific example of where if GE wasn't coming here to build the wind turbine factory they would most likely be in France than here.This is jobs that otherwise wouldn't be coming to the UK at all. By having the combination of advantages of the Freeport and the tax benefits and the planning help with having that here combined with existing infrastructure and the skills of the surrounding area that combination means that we can actually have new jobs here that we wouldn't have had in the UK at all."

From November 19, the region will have new powers for eligible businesses to access a suite of tax reliefs designed to incentivise new investment within the boundaries of Freeport ‘tax sites’. Subject to Parliamentary process and approval, this benefit will also extend to qualifying Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from April 2022.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "What was originally a 25 year period of time, that's come down to a 15 year period, which is more likely to be delivered in 12 and that's going to bring 20,000 jobs over a 12 year period. The GE factory is going to be built and finished by April 2023, there's 2,000 jobs. Net Zero Teesside that build is between £3-£4b just to build it, there's 5,000 construction workers needed that's going to start in next year. We're in discussions with other investors hydrogen through to other clean energy providers.

Jacob Young, MP for Redcar and Teesworks board member, said: “This is about the Government investing in economic growth, in high-quality jobs for local people and in cleaner, healthier and safer industries."

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