How to 'turbo charge' UK ports

Port of Southampton The plan could impact major ports including the Port of Southampton, managed by UKMPG member ABP. Credit: ABP

A new 10-point plan to "turbo charge" UK ports and give them greater ability to invest and grow seeks reform of local planning law, with an overall goal of boosting UK trading capability regardless of how Brexit develops.

The plan, developed by the UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) in combination with the British Ports Association (BPA), includes proposals to increase the scope of Permitted Development Rights within ports to make investment faster and easier and cover more value adding & job creating activities; develop pro-trade, pro investment ‘port zones’ around specific ports and their hinterland areas; give Masterplans for ports the same weighting as other local masterplans; and include the needs and opportunities for ports in local strategic spatial plans.

Tim Morris, CEO of the UKMPG, said: “Our plan focusses on ten common-sense, pragmatic and practical ways the Government could create a better environment for ports, for trade and for investment, helping not just the ports themselves but coastal communities all over Britain.”

More recognition needed

The plan also includes a proposal for a revised definition of ‘operational land’ so it better reflects the modern major ports business, and covers the full area used by multimodal ports – so that regulation recognises that the activities of modern ports are important centres for distribution chains, manufacturing activities and provide a wide array of services.

Emphasising that coastal communities are unique in what they can deliver for the economy, the plan stresses that it is important that the UK encourages investment, jobs and trade in these areas as much as possible to harness this. Special consideration should be applied to coastal communities in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as is already the case for rural communities.

While the plan notes that the concept of port zones could be extended further to ‘free trade zones’, research published the University of Sussex-based UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) this month found that free ports would have little impact on economic growth in a post-Brexit UK.

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