The words "green freeport," and "opportunities" are likely to be ones that people in the region will hear in close succession for some time to come - and for good reason. Momentum around the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport continues to grow; the most recent development being the official designation of the freeport's tax sites with effect from 8 April 2024. Businesses investing – or planning to invest - in those zones are now in a position to benefit from various tax reliefs that would not otherwise be available, including relief from Land and Buildings Transaction Tax; a partial employer National Insurance Contributions relief; exemption from business rates; enhanced capital allowances; and enhanced structures and buildings allowances.

There are five designated tax sites - namely, Ardersier, Cromarty Firth (Deephaven), Cromarty Firth (Invergordon), Cromarty Firth (Nigg), and Inverness. The combined size of the sites - 520 hectares of land - creates the largest green energy development site in Europe.

While Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport's primary focus is on floating offshore wind and green hydrogen, the possibilities of what can be done with land in and around the freeport are extensive. For instance, Haventus, the energy transition facilities provider and owner of Ardersier Port, recently secured a £100 million joint credit facility from the Scottish National Investment Bank and UK Infrastructure Bank to transform its site at Ardersier – a deal in which our lawyers were lead legal advisers to Haventus, Quantum Capital Group and Ardersier Port. This follows a £300 million capital commitment by Quantum Capital Group when they began to redevelop the port. The aim is to have the facility open and operating in the latter part of 2025.

There's also Sumitomo Electric UK Power Cables' plans for a 57,500 square metre cable factory close to the Port of Nigg, which is expected to be ready for commissioning in 2026.

The green freeport area and its tax sites are the starting point for opportunity, but there are also other opportunities to be found in the offshoots from creating a major green energy hub. That facility creates the need to develop further in other areas of infrastructure; increased housing stock for employees and contractors to buy or rent; new schools; and improved road networks too.

The Highland Council recently granted planning permission to Capstone Construction for the development, alongside Highland Council, of 66 homes, comprising a mix of affordable and private housing on the edge of Invergordon.

With a shortage of industrial space in the Highland region, there is considerable space zoned for such use within the freeport. Areas outwith the designated tax sites also stand to benefit. Examples include Inverness Airport Business Park, a mixed-use commercial property site which, offers opportunities for businesses attracted to the area. Other activity from the past year includes ARK Estates' acquisition of Castle Avenue Industrial Estate in Invergordon - a 0.8 hectare site zoned for industrial use and close to the A9.

For those with suitable and available land or property to sell or lease, whether in the vicinity of the freeport or on the routes that lead to it, it's a matter of identifying how those spaces or structures could be used or repurposed. For instance, yards, temporary or permanent warehouses for storage, and laydown space for equipment to be sent offshore are all likely needs for those businesses that are going to be operating once the freeport becomes fully functional.

The opportunities presented by the green freeport are wide-ranging, and many of those have not yet been realised. As the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport prepares its final business case submission in the coming weeks, there is much to be positive about.


Nicola Grant

Legal Director