Circuit of Wales moves a step closer

Promise of £300 million funding could see work finally begin on all-new Welsh circuit

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Work may finally be set to get underway at the proposed new home of the British Grand Prix, after reports emerged that the Circuit of Wales has secured £300 million in funding from insurance giant Aviva.

First reported by BBC Wales, the news would mean that the entire private funding required for construction to start would be in place, backed by £30 million pledged by the Welsh government to help redevelop the Ebbw Vale.

Aviva, best known for its insurance concerns, also invests heavily in strategic infrastructure projects, and is currently believed to manage upwards of £200 billion of property, including a number of key sites in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.

The area of South Wales was left economically devastated in 2002 with the closure of its steelworks, and the new circuit is the centrepiece of the government’s plans to kickstart job creation.

It’s hoped that if the money is now in place, the wait to start building is finally over. New project chief executive Martin Whitaker has told the BBC that an announcement confirming the funding is due “very, very soon”.

Initially announced in 2011, the project has suffered a catalogue of setbacks, with the goal of starting initial building work in January being the latest missed target.

Further delays mean the plan to host the British MotoGP round at the new facility in 2017 may also be scrapped, with the race currently looking set to remain at Silverstone for the foreseeable future.

However, the Welsh circuit still holds the rights to the British MotoGP race, despite being forced to sub-let the event to Silverstone.

With the rumoured confirmation that all the funding needed to get the project underway is in place, it seems like the coming weeks could finally see work start at the site. But despite this positive news, the organisation behind the project, HOTVDC (Heads of the Valleys Development Company), still has a number of significant problems to overcome.

Local residents have expressed concerns about traffic management in the area during peak traffic days, with limited access from the site to main roads sure to be a controversial issue in the weeks ahead – something that fans familiar with attending major events at UK race tracks will be well aware of.

Furthermore, an environmental statement conducted by HOTVDC also outlines issues with a large-diameter strategic gas pipeline that runs through the proposed site. The report details severe restrictions on large crowds near the gas line, something that will no doubt affect the project.

Circuit of Wales: The long road to reality

March 2010 First contact is made with MotoGP bosses at the Qatar race, hinting at the proposed project.

November 2011 The circuit is officially announced to the public.

January 2013 The proposal is pitched to MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta, who visits the site and is said to be very impressed with plans.

July 2013 Initial planning permission is granted. Organisers hope to start construction by the end of the year.

March 2014 Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone, writes to PM David Cameron to complain about “potentially illegal” public funds given to the project.

July 2014 Environment Minister Alun Davies is sacked, after it emerges he broke the Ministerial Code through lobbying Natural Resources Wales in favour of the new race circuit.

August 2014 The un-built circuit is granted a five-year deal to host the British Grand Prix.

■ September 2014 CoW announce that Donington Park will host the 2015 race for them, as construction still isn’t underway.

February 2015 The 2015 race is moved to Silverstone, after CoW were “unable to meet long- planned payment deadlines” to Donington.

March 2015 Executives announce £120m in pledged funding from “Asian and American investors”.

November 2015 800 acres of public land needed for the project is deregulated by a public enquiry, paving the way for construction to start.

February 2016 Rumours emerge that insurance giant Aviva will invest £300m in the new project meaning that work at the site can finally get underway.

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer