Wales

Circuit of Wales: Plea not to give up on race track plan

Michael Carrick wants to meet Economy Minister Ken Skates in a bid to keep the project alive
Image caption Michael Carrick would have been in line for £1.7m if the deal had been completed

The founder of the Circuit of Wales has called on the Welsh Government to not give up on the £433m project.

Michael Carrick said the project near Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, was "too important" to walk away from.

He wants to meet with Economy Secretary Ken Skates who refused to give a £210m guarantee for the racetrack because of the financial risk to the taxpayer.

But Mr Skates plans to invest £100m in a new business park nearby instead, which he said could attract 1,500 jobs.

It comes as Mr Carrick revealed he would have been in line for £1.7m if the deal had been completed.

He said he accepted there had been a perception he was going to make a lot of money personally from the deal, but defended the payment as a reflection of seven years' of unpaid work.

Talking of the failed deal, Mr Carrick said: "We haven't given up on it and I'm hoping government hasn't."

"The project is too important to walk away. We've got the support of our investors, we've got the support of our development partners and we want to make it work for government and for the valleys," he said.

"We're keen to move forward with the project and keen to understand further the reasons it didn't get supported and address them.

"We've got to sit down with the officials and ministers and get a solution that works for everyone."

The project, first unveiled in 2011, has been dogged by controversy.

Its backers - the Heads of the Valleys Development Company (HoVDC) - had wanted the Welsh Government to underwrite 80% of the cost, revised down to about 50% when ministers asked for a rethink.

Alongside the circuit itself, which would have hosted the British leg of the MotoGP for at least five years, there were also plans to bring BMX and mountain biking, indoor skiing and concerts.

The issue of the guarantee meant the Welsh Government would have received £99m over 33 years in exchange for underwriting the project once it was open for business.

'Stumbling block'

But in the event of it failing, the public purse would have to pay back £210m over time, while backers Aviva would keep the circuit and the infrastructure.

Mr Carrick said he met civil servants during 28 meetings over the last year ahead of the decision but did not have detailed discussions with Mr Skates himself.

"The stumbling block was a very high risk of it being recognised on the balance sheet of the Welsh Government. We think it is solvable," he said.

Mr Carrick, who owns 88% of shares in the company, added he did not believe the "accountancy treatment" should act as a "barrier to investment within the valleys".

Its business plan said the circuit was projected to have a £45m development profit if it was successful and dividends would only have been paid out on shares from 2033, providing any debts were cleared.

The Welsh Government has not commented.

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