GWENT Wildlife Trust has reaffirmed its objection to the £280m Circuit of Wales racetrack development after recent flooding raised further concerns for the environmental body.
It said the upland heathland and bog where it is proposed holds “billions of litres of water, with peat retaining up to 20 times its weight in moisture”.
Acting like a sponge, it claimed the peat prevents rain from pouring down the valleys all at once.
This week, the group behind the Circuit of Wales – the Heads of the Valleys Development Company – has put forward proposals to start digging ditches and drains on the 830-acre Rassau site near Ebbw Vale, to drain water from the peat, giving GWT a “real cause for concern” after the recent bad weather and flooding.
It added that this clearance, combined with any more rainfall, has the potential to result in flash floods.
The proposed development would represent the biggest investment in the UK motor sector in more than 50 years.
Bosses hope thousands of jobs will be created and expect the track to attract some750,000 visitors a year.
But GWT Reserves Manager, Ian Rappel, said: “The removal of over 700,000 cubic metres of peat, replacing it with tarmac and culverting rivers and streams over 350 hectares has the potential for disaster. Not only is this area hugely rich in wildlife, it does an incredible job in the amount of clean water it holds.
“The loss of such a valuable ‘ecosystem service’ threatens to undermine existing efforts to clean our rivers and control flooding across the Eastern Valleys.”
Although GWT recognised the plan’s potential job creation value, it said it “continues to maintain our objection to Circuit [of] Wales”.
Natural Resources Wales dropped its initial landscape and ecological objections last year, saying they could be mitigated. The Welsh Government has lifted a block on the development, while Torfaen Council has also thrown its support behind it.
The Circuit of Wales had not commented when this story was published.