Wales politics

Circuit of Wales: Project founder hits back at cash refusal

Circuit of Wales
Image caption The racetrack promised to create jobs and prosperity in one of Wales' most deprived areas

The founder of the Circuit of Wales project has criticised the Welsh Government's refusal to back the scheme, claiming it misled his company.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said it was too risky, and claims of up to 6,000 jobs were "overstated".

Michael Carrick said none of the government's reasons for rejecting the racetrack were raised during 28 meetings with civil servants.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the matter had been handled "by the book".

The developers of Circuit of Wales wanted a guarantee to underwrite the cost of the £433m motor racing track and leisure scheme in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent. But Welsh Government said there was a risk ministers would end up with taking on £373m in debt.

The scheme received £9m in public money from the Welsh Government before ministers decided on Tuesday not to offer further support.

Instead, Mr Skates set out plans to invest £100m in a new business park close to the site of the proposed circuit which it believes could attract 1,500 jobs.

Image caption Michael Carrick said no final decision on whether to continue the project had been taken

Mr Carrick said of the Welsh Government: "They have not shared their concerns with us. After 28 meetings [in the last year], none of these points were communicated to us."

He claimed that without the construction of a racetrack with testing facilities, the government would struggle to attract companies to Blaenau Gwent.

"They have picked these job figures on the back of a fag packet. It is nonsense," he said of the business park idea.

"We have had seven years of due diligence and evidence. If they think companies are simply going to come without any other reason then they are wrong.

"The question on the automotive park is what diligence has the government done?

"What feasibilities studies have they undertaken before committing £100m?"

Mr Carrick said no final decision had been made about whether to continue to pursue the project without government support.

He said a number of senior members of the team at the Heads of the Valleys Development Company were due to lose their houses in the wake of the decision, and more than £50m committed to the project by dozens of companies had been put at risk.

Image caption Carwyn Jones had been quizzed on the Circuit of Wales funding decision during First Minister's Questions on Tuesday

Meanwhile First Minister Carwyn Jones has defended the Welsh Government's handling of the Circuit of Wales project.

"I wanted to see it work," he told BBC TV's The Wales Report programme.

"What I wanted to do was to give every single opportunity for the Circuit of Wales to come up with scheme that would work as far as the taxpayer was concerned.

"If we are going to be accused of anything, then perhaps it's being too open to giving them that opportunity but I wanted that opportunity to be there and unfortunately it didn't work out."

The Welsh Labour leader claimed the government had handled Circuit of Wales "by the book" and had "properly protected the tax-payer".

"The circuit itself would have provided only around 100 full-time jobs," he said.

"The thousands of jobs would have been created in the technology park which we are now going ahead with."

"We are confident that we can create most of the jobs that the circuit would have created in any event."

Ian Price, director of business organisation CBI Wales, said he supported the "very, very difficult decision" and denied suggestions that it would damage Wales' reputation as a place to do business.

The Wales Report, BBC One Wales, Wednesday 22:40 BST

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