The Plymouth and South Devon freeport has appointed an interim chief executive to guide the public-private partnership project over the next six months.

Richard May, who is head of Oceansgate and marine investment for Plymouth City Council, will take up the role on August 1.

The Plymouth and South Devon Freeport is one of only eight freeports planned for England by the government. Earlier in July, it received approval from Westminster for its outline business case, along with two of its proposed tax sites.

A freeport in Plymouth and South Devon will create a zone designated by the government with certain allowances to boost the economy. It is expected to deliver thousands of jobs and encourage millions of pounds of inward investment to Plymouth, South Hams and the wider region.

Plymouth and South Devon Freeport Limited, a private company limited by guarantee without share capital, was formed recently and is currently being led by interim chair Adrian Bratt, executive director at Princess Yachts. It is a condition of freeport designation, that an independent company is formed with a chair and board of directors.

Mr Bratt said: “An immense amount of work has been done to get the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport ambition to the point of realisation, it is great to have Richard onboard so that we can hit the ground running, get the whole freeport operational so that the city and wider region can begin to grasp the opportunities that enterprise offers.”

Councillor Mark Shayer, board member of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport said Mr May’s appointment was a “pivotal moment” in the freeport’s development. “[It] opens the door to an ever-accelerating programme of key milestones leading to the freeport reaching its full potential,” he said.

A national recruitment campaign will be launched this year to find a permanent chair and chief executive for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport Limited company, with both posts expected to be filled by early 2023. The freeport will officially be operational in the autumn once the full business case has been approved.

Mr May added: “It is a privilege to be supporting Adrian and the board as interim CEO for the next six months as we work together with our range of partners to launch the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport.

“Having led the project since the bid stage in late 2020 this role enables me to keep both hands on the wheel as we steer towards the final business case being signed off and freeport becoming operational across all three sites at South Yard, Sherford and Langage.”