A £3.5m deal has been approved so land on the edge of Plymouth can be bought to create a tax-break freeport site. Plymouth City Council will supply the cash to another authority, South Hams District Council, so it can purchase the plot from house-building companies at Sherford.

The land is earmarked as one of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport ’s three “tax sites”, the others being at Oceansgate in Devonport and Langage, where businesses can benefit from a range of tax benefits. Last year it was revealed that tax-break industrial sites with relaxed planning rules could be set up anywhere in the South Hams or on Dartmoor as part of the freeport.

Now, despite concerns raised by South Hams residents, a parcel of land at Sherford, between Plympton and Plymstock, will be bought by South Hams District Council to form a key freeport tax site. What is described by Plymouth City Council as “a key local company” is interested in developing a logistics facility on land at the edge of Sherford.

The land is currently owned by the Sherford Consortium, a partnership between national housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Vistry Group, which includes Countryside Partnerships, Linden Homes and Bovis Homes. South Hams District Council intends to acquire 7.9 hectares of land to allow enabling works to get underway.

Plymouth City Council, as the accountable body for the freeport, is to allocate £3.5m of Freeport Seed Capital Funding, from the Government, into the capital programme for the land acquisition. Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said: “This decision will help speed up the ground and preparation work needed on this allocated freeport site to get it ready for development. In a nutshell, this means more jobs will be available sooner .”

Cllr John Birch, South Hams District Council’s executive member for economic development, commercial strategy and governance,, said: “This land acquisition will enable us to unlock the freeport’s Sherford site by at least a year, if not more, than what had originally been modelled within the freeport’s full business case. This means we can support the freeport’s objectives of more jobs and regeneration activity for the South Hams quicker than planned.”

In September a business case and £4m freeport seed funding was signed off to enable work on industrial units at Beaumont Way in Langage, the largest freeport tax site, to get underway in the new year. The site is being brought forward in phases with Beaumont Way the first development for the freeport. In the same month, £1.3m of freeport seed funding was allocated to fund strategic infrastructure developments at Millbay Docks.

The freeport is a public/private partnership with Plymouth City Council, South Hams District Council and Devon County Council working with Babcock International, Princess Yachts, Carlton Power, the Sherford Consortium and a range of stakeholders including the universities of Plymouth and Exeter, Plymouth port operators, skills providers and the Heart of the South West LEP. It aims to harness the region’s key strengths in marine, defence and advanced manufacturing and enable innovators and investors from across the world to test, trial and take to market cutting edge technology and products.

There can only be three tax sites, and there must be at least one customs site, or “free zone”, in any freeport. But the freeport company could seek to create more customs sites within the extensive outer boundary.

In 2022 it was revealed that The Government had set a vast boundary for the freeport which stretches from Devonport to Dartmouth, Salcombe to Okehampton, and incorporates all of Dartmoor and the entire South Hams.

However, the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport stressed it did not mean the entire area on the map had been earmarked for development or had any special planning status. But , “dependent on need” the freeport could ask HM Revenue and Customs to designate further custom sites within the outer boundary in future.

Earlier this month, South Hams District Council’s audit and governance group released a report which made recommendations to “manage any possible risks”. The report acknowledged that concern had been expressed by some residents and that there was “a greater need for a programme of communication and engagement with the community”.

Original article: www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/plymouth-news/massive-35m-land-deal-edge-8982240.