Agenda item

Plymouth and South Devon Freeport: Report of Task & Finish Group



The Executive considered a report that set out the recommendations of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport Task and Finish Group that had been established by the Audit and Governance Committee.


As part of his introduction, the lead Executive Member paid tribute to the excellent work that had been carried out by the Members of the Task and Finish Group.  In addition, the Member advised that, at the appropriate time, it was his intention to PROPOSE an alternative part 2 to the report recommendation that read as follows:


‘2.   That the Executive RECOMMEND to Council to support the 17 recommendations set out by the Task and Finish Group in Section 2 of the published agenda report and RECOMMEND their acceptance by Full Council.’


During the ensuing debate, the following points were raised:


(a)      A number of Members echoed the comments of the lead Member in respect of wishing to record their thanks to the extensive review that had been undertaken by the Task and Finish Group.  Members felt that the detailed report had addressed each of the key issues and summarised that the review had concluded that, whilst there were significant risks associated with the Freeport initiative, these were outweighed by the extent of the economic benefits that were likely to be realised;


(b)     In the event of the report recommendations being approved at this Executive meeting, it was recognised that it would then be considered further at the Full Council meeting to be held on 14 December 2023, with all Members having the opportunity to debate (and vote) on the matter at that time;


(c)      Some Members raised their concerns over the Freeport concept that included:


-        both the lack of public consultation on the initiative when original approval was given and the fact that the public consultation on the Council’s draft Corporate Strategy only closed on the day of this Executive meeting (30 November 2023);

-        the relevance of the issues raised in the Public Question (and Supplementary) that had been raised by Mr Funnell earlier in this meeting (Minute E.34/23 above refers);

-        their feeling that the Council’s investment in the project could be better spent towards the declared Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency and Housing Crisis;

-        the Task and Finish Group conclusion that a dedicated (i.e. just for this Council) Risk Register was currently lacking;

-        the financial challenges facing all tiers of local government; and

-        the lack of all Member access to the contractual details.  In reply to the request for interested Members to be in receipt of the contractual details prior to the Council meeting on 14 December, the lead Member committed to discussing this matter with the Council’s Monitoring Officer outside of this meeting.

In responding to these concerns, the lead Member attempted to counter them and expressed his deep frustrations over the content of a party political leaflet that he considered to have been, at best, misleading to the general public;


(d)     Some Members highlighted the importance of the Council now looking to the future as opposed to reflecting on what had happened to date.  In addition, a number of Members expressed the view that, since the Freeport project would continue irrespective of the views of this District Council, then it was preferential to remain as a fully participating partner who was able to play an influencing and shaping role rather than being on the outside.


It was then:




1.    That the Task and Finish Group be thanked for their considerable and in-depth work reviewing the risks and opportunities of the Freeport; and


That Council be RECOMMENDED to:


2.    support the 17 recommendations set out by the Task and Finish Group in section 2 of the published agenda report and RECOMMEND their acceptance by Full Council; and


3.    consider the Executive’s recommendations on the report at its meeting due to take place on 14 December 2023.


Supporting documents: