East Midlands Airport could play a central role in achieving freeport status for the region, believes Clare. It is working with councils and local enterprise

partnerships to put together a proposal to Government for the East Midlands to be designated as one of the UK’s 10 freeports, which will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce. Designed to attract major domestic and

international investment post-Brexit, freeports will benefit from a wide range of tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures, a streamlined planning process to boost redevelopment and Government support to promote regeneration and innovation. Clare says: “The concept of a freeport presents

The airport has a thriving cargo operation

a massive opportunity, and a multi-modal inland freeport in the East Midlands positions us really well as a unique proposition. “It really capitalises on the contribution of the

airport, our region’s very strong manufacturing and technology base, and the innovation coming out of our universities to do something quite special, and add some real value to both the UK and regional economy. “We are the port of entry but EMA also sits

across the three counties, so we’re the glue that holds them together. We’re working with the LEPs and councils to put a plan together that recognises the value a freeport brings to the region through investment and jobs. “Making the sum of the parts greater than the

whole is what the freeport really does.” She believes the airport will have a huge role to

The global travel collapse has had a profound effect on East Midlands Airport

AVIATION HAS BEEN the predominant thread throughout Clare’s career. Starting in the Royal Air Force as an air traffic controller, which involved deployments to warzones including Kosovo and the Falklands, she enjoyed an accelerated progression through the ranks to run the air traffic control (ATC) training school and then the entire ATC division at RAF Brize Norton. More strategic planning roles would follow, reporting

to the commander-in-chief of the RAF and finishing her military career as a group captain who led the team that set up the Military Aviation Authority (MMA). The MAA was established in 2010 on the

‘There’s an awful lot to deal with in terms of how we build back from the unprecedented times we find ourselves in right now’

recommendation of The Nimrod Review, which followed an inquiry into the 2006 RAF Nimrod crash that killed all 14 crew members on board the plane in Afghanistan. It mirrors the air safety regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the RAF, Army and Royal Navy. “It was quite a bold move for the military and we did

in a year what it took the CAA 20 years to do in terms of standing up a regulatory framework to offer independent assurance and regulation for military aviation,” says Clare. Since leaving the RAF in 2013, she has climbed the

private sector ladder, working in civil aviation at defence and transport contractor Serco and NATS, the air navigation service provider for most of the UK’s major airports. In January 2019, she joined Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the parent company of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, as director of operational excellence. Her role involved implementing standardised policies

for issues such as drones and security across the three airports, before coronavirus struck

play in the post-Brexit economy, not only in the short term to mitigate any delays in the months after the transition period ends, but more broadly in a world where people order things online and expect next-day delivery. “That’s the bread and butter for our express

freight team and the only way to service that demand so quickly,” she adds. “While we’re in a society based on those wants and needs, then the future is bright for us.”

Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles (pictured) has written to East Midlands MPs and council leaders to offer the organisation’s support in making the case for the establishment of a freeport in the region. The Chamber previously called

on Government to designate a free trade zone linked to the airport in the 2018 Delivering a Great Future manifesto. In the letter, Scott says both

the need and scale of the opportunity for the vision outlined two years ago has only grown, as exemplified by changing consumer habits, the need to reimagine supply chains post-Brexit and the growing emphasis on low-carbon products and processes. He says: “While for many, these changes bring challenges, for the East Midlands, if responded to appropriately, we believe they bring a massive opportunity. “Obtaining a freeport with a focus on innovation,

low carbon and trade is central to us realising that opportunity to its full extent. We have the expertise, the land, much of the necessary infrastructure and, of course, the land.” Bids for freeport status must be submitted by 5 February 2021.

business network December 2020/January 2021 27

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