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Competition heats up for Welsh Freeport contenders

10 Feb 2023 4 minute read
MV Stena Superfast X leaving Holyhead. Picture by Reading Tom (CC BY 2.0)

Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter

The competition is heating up in a race which could see Anglesey benefiting from 26 million pounds in UK Government funding, to help create jobs and halt decline on the island.

Anglesey is just one of three areas in Wales bidding for Freeport status which would give the area reduced taxes for businesses.

The Anglesey Freeport Bid is jointly developed with Stena Line, owners of Holyhead port, and Anglesey County Council.

Stena’s executive director Ian Hampton describes it as providing a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to boost the North Wales economy.

Whilst Anglesey County Council’s chief executive, Dylan J Williams, said it could attract £1 billion in investment, creating up to 13000 jobs.

Anglesey politicians on all sides are also backing the scheme.

Game changer

Ynys Môn MP Conservative Virginia Crosbie hails it as a potential “game changer.”

Ynys Môn Plaid Cymru MS/AS Rhun ap Iorwerth, says he is a “supporter,” although, highlighted a “funding battle” which initially had to be won for Wales, before he gave it his full backing.

He is “confident” that the council and Stena put together a “compelling bid” but also calls for assurances over workers’ rights and the environment.

The UK and Welsh governments have been working in partnership to select a freeport area in Wales, the decision is due in spring.

Competition comes from The Celtic Freeport bid (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) and The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport).

This week, Anglesey’s bid won further support from high profile MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum.

They called on the Government to approve the island’s offer during an event in London, on Tuesday.

MP Virginia Crosbie joined 28 Members and Peers at Portcullis House, Westminster where consortium members showcased the bid.


She told the Local Democracy Reporting service afterwards: “I remain confident about Anglesey’s bid for freeport status. I am doing everything I can to secure it although I recognise there is competition.

“It would be a game changer for our island with huge incentives for investment and jobs after decades of underfunding.

“If we are going to make a difference to islanders’ lives, then this sort of innovative and impactful initiative is the way forward.”

On Wednesday, a debate was also tabled in the Senedd, in Cardiff.

Mr ap Iorwerth had made the case for Holyhead and Anglesey.

He said: “I’m confident that Anglesey Council and Stena have put together a compelling bid. It’s about creating new economic opportunities, and whilst there’s no silver bullet when it comes to regeneration, we need to look at how we can use all economic levers.

“However, we needed some assurances first. Originally UK Government offered £8m to a Welsh freeport, compared with £26m for each one in England – clearly unacceptable. Welsh Government negotiated the same funding package for Wales and crucially backed my calls to negotiate assurances around workers rights and the environment. It’s in that new context that I’ve been working with the bid team, and making sure that we’re in strongest possible position.”

The bid could “bring investment, provide job opportunities, encourage entrepreneurship on the island and across the north,” whilst slowing decline in Holyhead.


Anglesey Council Chief Executive, Dylan J. Williams said the bid, was “an extremely strong and positive” proposal.

“We look forward to continue our long term collaboration with Stena Line,” and said it had backing from 17 major businesses, including Rolls Royce, Bechtel, Last Energy, and educational partners including Bangor University.

“Securing Freeport status can deliver real, transformational change for communities across Anglesey and the wider North Wales region.” He said.

“According to initial modelling estimates, the freeport would attract £1bn of much-needed investment, including new, high-salary jobs, in the range of 3,500 to 13,000 across the region.

“It could help arrest this decline of our communities, ensuring young people, would not have to leave their communities to look for work; and enhance and strengthen the Welsh language and culture on the island.”

Ian Hampton, executive director of Stena Line added: “It was great to see many politicians coming to our event in Westminster this week, to pledge their support for our bid for a Freeport in Ynys Mon/Anglesey.

“The benefits of such a strong partnership between Stena Line and the Anglesey Country Council, backed up by Holyhead Port, was clearly evident.

“Our Freeport bid provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to boost the economy of North Wales by attracting much-needed businesses, jobs and prosperity to the region, we are very confident of its success.”

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Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
1 year ago

They are all jumping on the band wagon believing freeports will create a golden bananza. If they are so good – why were they tried and scrapped in the past? More consideration has to be made regarding the environment created, the working conditions and the potential for corruption. This issue is more than just about the money – which rarely benefits the people working there just the business owners.

1 year ago

You do wonder if googling is that hard to do. Competing for the out of date, waste of money, just to say you won. This is so brexit

1 year ago

Race to the bottom, yet no one has the sense to pause and say that surely there has to be something better than this.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

For FP’s; Precarious employment, less tax, less rules, less oversight…

Against; FP’s attract organised crime, money laundering, smuggling and entrepreneurial fraudsters while becoming a black hole that absorbs any and all economic activity beyond its boundaries…

In effect if you are not on the take or on the make there are only disadvantages…

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
1 year ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

For Freeports: historically all the great civilisations depended on the the great port which is minimally regulated and has a mercantile tradition back from the quayside. In no particular order: Hamburg, Lubeck and others in the Hanseatic League, Liverpool, Swansea and Cardiff briefly, Cadiz, Marseille, Piraeus, Tyre, Alexandria, Carthage, Singapore, Hong Kong & Macao, numerous in the West Indies etc etc with many missed out. They were so successful that the State tended to move in on them and cramped their style. Surprise surprise Wales has never had really done this well and our hopes died when the WDA died.… Read more »

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