Ministers drop block on Ebbw Vale's Circuit of Wales
3:09pm Friday 23rd August 2013 in News
A WELSH Government block on the Circuit of Wales project has been lifted, it emerged today.
The minister responsible for planning Carl Sargeant has decided not to call in the planning application for the £250m motorsport complex, which is claimed could generate 6,000 jobs.
A letter from a civil servant to Blaenau Gwent council indicates the housing and regeneration minister has lifted the holding direction preventing outline planning permission for the scheme being granted.
That means that Blaenau Gwent council can issue permission once it has completed its legal agreement with the Heads of the Valleys Development Company on contributions to the community.
The move comes after Natural Resources Wales dropped its landscape and ecological objections, saying they could be mitgated and that a call-in wasn’t needed.
The company’s chief executive Michael Carrick said: "We believe this is the right decision; there is strong support in the local community and we have demonstrated that we can address the concerns of all stakeholders."
Nick Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent, said: “That’s terrific news, which will be a big boost to Blaenau Gwent.”
Common land pressure group The Open Spaces Society, which had requested a call-in, said it was “distressed” at the decision.
Kate Ashbrook of the society said: "The development would have a devastating effect on registered common land and the proposal cannot go ahead until suitable exchange-land has been provided and approved by the Welsh Government. That’s a tall order."
It has been claimed by the project that an agreement has been reached with commoners who use the development land.
Tom Clarke, chief executive of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, said the trust was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.
The trust had claimed the development would hit wildlife habitats, increase flood risk and lead to a release of greenhouse gases.
Blaenau Gwent council, which didn't comment today, agreed to grant outline planning permission for the project earlier this year.
But in July the Welsh Government issued a holding direction –in effect a block – on the council issuing the final permission to the developer while Mr Sargeant decided whether a minister needed to decide on the issue himself.
The decision letter says the minister considered issues surrounding the project, in light of the Welsh Government’s policy on call-ins and advice, were “of local importance” and that Mr Sargeant did not think the application should be decided on by the Welsh Government.
“As the minister has concluded that the application should not be called in.... the minister for housing and regeneration hereby cancels the [holding] direction,” the letter says.
The Welsh Government would not comment on the matter today.
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