Circuit of Wales, Ebbw Vale: Work to start on £280m race circuit

An artist's impression of the proposed motor racing circuit
Image caption The Circuit of Wales will have a number of tracks, including motocross and international karting tracks

Work on a £280m motor racing circuit in Blaenau Gwent will start before Christmas after developers signed a legal agreement with the local council.

Land near Ebbw Vale will be transformed into the Circuit of Wales to host all motor racing championships, except Formula 1.

Blaenau Gwent council had granted outline planning permission and a deal has now been signed for work to start.

Over £2m has been pledged to the community as part of the plans.

At least 1,650 training places in construction and service-based industries will also be created for local people.

After months of uncertainty about the future of the project, a section 106 agreement has been signed by the developers, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, and the council.

It means preparation work on the 830 acre (335 hectare) site can start before the end of the year, with construction expected to start early in 2014.

The project will include a 3.5 mile (5.6km) track, a motocross track, an international karting track and off-road driving facilities, along with a hotel and business and leisure complex.

A technology park will also be built next to the circuit to help research, development and support services in the automotive and motor sports industries.

In addition, a motor sport race academy will be created to develop young Welsh, British and European elite riders and drivers.

As part of the deal signed with the council, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, has committed to:

  • Deliver at least 1,650 training placements in construction and service-based industries, with contractors obligated to employ local people.
  • A total of £750,000 for the local community over 10 years, which could help to set up new businesses.
  • Another £50,000 a year - £500,000 over 10 years - will be used to help a number of residents and businesses in Blaenau Gwent with fuel poverty.
  • A fund of £1m will be given to different community art groups to create a number of commissions, such as a "statement" piece of artwork for the circuit and others to be used around the county.

The company has also pledged to work to minimise the impact of the circuit on the local environment.

It said it will improve 200 acres (80 hectares) of habitat to increase biodiversity in the area and has agreed in principle with environmental body Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for another 600 to 800 acres (240 to 320 hectares) to be improved.

'Environmental concerns'

Jonathan Jones, head of training and recruitment for the project, said the scheme had reached a "huge milestone", adding it means "we are now a major step closer to delivering the many jobs and opportunities the development will offer".

He added: "We envisage our construction partners, Griffiths and FCC being on site in the coming weeks commencing with outline ground works before construction proper begins early next year."

It is estimated that some 750,000 people will visit the completed circuit each year and it is expected to generate £50m a year for the Welsh economy.

An anticipated 3,000 new jobs will be created during the construction phase, with approximately 6,000 new jobs once the development is completed in 2015/16.

The signing of the section 106 agreement follows months of uncertainty over whether the plans would be referred to the Welsh government for it to take over planning control of the scheme following concerns for the environment.

But in August the council was given the go-ahead to make the final decisions after NRW said it had been reassured following talks with the Heads of the Valleys Development Company.

Blaenau Gwent council said it would not be commenting on the section 106 agreement.

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