“It’s time to shine a light on Solent” – says Shoosmiths’ Paula Swain

June, 2022 - Milton Keynes, England

Solent Freeport is a “unique, once in a lifetime chance” for the region, says Shoosmiths’ Paula Swain, as she marked the official launch of the freeport in a “milestone” event.

Paula, head of Shoosmiths’ Solent office and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) representative on the Solent Freeport Consortium Board, was speaking after the Solent Summit which was hosted at Horizon Cruise Terminal in Southampton yesterday.

The landmark event, led by the LEP and attended by hundreds of businesses from around the region, also saw the unveiling of the Solent 2050 strategy, aimed at bringing new investment and skilled jobs to the south coast.


The long-term plan promises to create 52,000 new jobs, along with measures to tackle climate change, skills training, and support for new businesses in a move that it hopes will ‘level up’ Solent’s coastal communities. Solent 2050 also offers support for businesses to develop new technology and reduce the use of carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

The Solent is one of eight regions in England selected to be a freeport, potentially unlocking billions of pounds of investment. The Solent region already contributes £31 billion to the UK economy. Estimates suggest that freeport status could boost that figure by an additional £3.57 billion through Gross Value-Added uplift, including £1.97 billion in the Solent region and £1.6 billion in the wider supply chain.

The full business case for Solent Freeport is expected to be signed off by the government in September.

Paula said: “Solent Freeport will mobilise important investment leading to increased trade innovation, skills training and jobs. After two years of collaboration with landowners, local authorities, and government, facilitated by Solent LEP, yesterday was a milestone day as we officially launched the freeport and outlined the vision behind the Solent 2050 strategy.

“This is a unique, once in a generation chance for Solent we don’t often get the chance to bang the drum for this incredible and beautiful part of the world.”

She added: “We’re the closest port to international shipping lanes which creates a unique opportunity for businesses that want to invest here. We need to grab this opportunity with both hands.”

“This a crucial time for our region and will provide a focus for external investment and help boost our incredibly diverse economy. It’s time to shine a light on Solent.”

The key takeaways from yesterday’s event were:

  • Future business rates will be pooled by the different authorities within the Solent Freeport, enabling future rates streams to be committed to early investment.
  • Landowners are bound by site specific agreements to ensure the most suitable businesses operate within the tax sites, maximising innovation and green initiatives and ensuring growth rather than displacement of existing businesses.
  • Solent Freeport contains tax sites of very different qualities, from the Navigation Quarter to the north east of Southampton Airport and near the rail network, to Dunsbury Park in Portsmouth, and various sites along Southampton Water, making the region more flexible to differing and various business needs.

Paula, who also heads up Shoosmiths’ national business to business debt recovery team, joined the LEP board in June 2018 and was instrumental in its successful bid for freeport status.

The Solent LEP is a partnership between businesses, local authorities and further education bodies and plays a central role in determining local economic priorities to encourage economic growth in the region.

Meanwhile, Shoosmiths’ Solent office is getting set to mark its 30th anniversary in the region this year. The business first opened an office in Hampshire in 1992, just a short walk across the road from its current HQ on Whiteley’s Solent Business Park, where it moved to in 2018.