Hundreds of new jobs are set to be created in Halton as part of the government's freeports scheme.

Freeports are special areas where rules on things like tax and import/export regulations are different from the rest of the country, a move designed to encourage business growth.

Initially unveiled in the 2021 budget, the Liverpool City Region (LCR) Freeport is one of only eight in England and includes the 3MG site in Widnes.

The site hosts a massive logistics facility called XDock which bosses say will create 500 jobs.  Due to its location at the site, bosses said XDock would benefits from both freeport customs and tax status. It could also enable Halton Council to retain £2m in business rates every year for 20 years, ring-fenced for investment in regeneration projects in the borough, once the development is completed and fully tenanted.

Halton is one of six local authority members of the LCR. Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the LCR, said: "Being a member of the Liverpool City Region means that Halton can reap the benefits of devolved, local leadership – capturing opportunities that may previously have been out of reach. This is a prime example of how strategic decision is helping us to reinvigorate our economy and, most importantly, change our residents' lives for the better."

Project cheifs said the 500 jobs will be available at all levels from managerial to shop floor from mid-2025. Through the planned LCR Freeport Skills Academy, the Freeport team, the LCR and local education providers will work to ensure Halton residents have the skills needed to benefit from the employment opportunities.

The 550,000 sqft XDock announcement comes after the completion in late 2022 of the Viking Building, also at the 3MG site, which is a 200,000 square foot logistics warehouse.

Cllr Mike Wharton, Leader of Halton Council and Liverpool City Region Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Business, said: "It will bring investment and jobs to Halton and the wider city region, through the 500 direct jobs on the site, and through its construction and the wider supply chain. 

"But more than that, the £2m in business rates that we could retain every year for the next 20 years would give us a lot of options in terms of deciding for ourselves, at a local level, how to spend that money to drive regeneration and improve the lives of the people of Halton."

Freeports have proven controversial in the past. The were first introduced in the 1980s then phased out in 2012. Then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time of 2021's announcement that bringing them back would help with 'levelling up', but critics claim freeports do not actually boost the wider economy, and instead just move activity from one place to another.