Ex-race ace's Circuit of Wales claims rebuffed
9:28am Thursday 26th September 2013 in News
A FORMER F1 racing driver turned racetrack owner has said public money shouldn’t be spent on the Circuit of Wales.
Jonathan Palmer says the project is doomed to failure – but he also admits he does not want competition from the planned track at Ebbw Vale.
But the project team has hit back, saying Mr Palmer’s “clique” wants to limit competition and restrict opportunities in a key sector.
The Welsh Government is providing a £2 million loan to the circuit.
The former Formula F1 driver of the 1980s is now chief executive of Motor Sport Vision (MSV), which owns four circuits including Brands Hatch.
Mr Palmer, writing as chairman of the Association of Motor Racing Circuit Owners which represents 18 circuits including his own, told the company behind Circuit of Wales that the margins involved in operating motor circuits make it difficult to make a profit.
The last UK circuit to be built, Rockingham, which opened in 2001, only employed 200 workers maximum during its two year construction, the letter claims.
Circuit of Wales’ backer the Heads of the Valleys Development Company there could be around 3,000 construction jobs – however the project includes a technology park, a karting track, industrial units and commercial retail space as well as the main track.
Rockingham’s track is 2.5 miles long in its International Long Circuit configuration, while the planned Circuit of Wales project would have a length of around 3.2 miles.
Mr Palmer said that it is “just not possible to get a return on investment from constructing a brand new circuit on a green field site” and it would be “unacceptable” for public funds to be spent on it. He added: “I certainly wouldn’t be happy for my taxes going to fund a project that I believed will be doomed to failure.”
The Argus put it to him that the association was worried about competition from the Circuit: “We would prefer not to have the competition but that is not [the reason]. If you look at the accounts of other racing circuits in the UK you will see there’s no chance this is going to work.”
A spokesman for the Circuit of Wales said: “We have heard all of this before from Jonathan Palmer and his clique of existing circuits. They are ready to limit competition and restrict opportunities for investment in one of our key sectors.”
Welsh government must look at plan - AM
TORY AM Mohammad Asghar has called for the Welsh Government to re-examine the scheme.
Mr Asghar said: “In addition to the £300 million required some of the more prestigious events such as Moto GP, cost millions of pounds to host - where is all of this money going to come from?”
Mr Asghar had previously supported the development.
But a Welsh Government spokesman said: “The developer has assured us the project has the potential to create thousands of jobs and attract further investment to the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone and local area.
“We have provided support towards the initial project development stage of the Circuit of Wales project following a positive independent due diligence report.”
The Wales Audit Office said auditors are currently liaising with Welsh Government officials and other key parties regarding public investment in the Circuit of Wales.
He said: “Once this process is complete, they will then consider whether any further action is required.”
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