Circuit of Wales
|Location||Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, Wales|
|Length||3.50 mi (5.63 km)|
Circuit of Wales is a motor racing circuit and technology park development project in Blaenau Gwent, Wales, with an original planned opening in 2016. A joint venture funded by the Welsh Government and private investors, the site is adjacent to the A465 road on the outskirts of the town of Ebbw Vale, 18 miles (29 km) north-west of the city of Newport, and 25 miles (40 km) north of the city of Cardiff. It is intended to be constructed by Heads of the Valleys Development Company, which BBC News reported in April 2016 was intending to continue negotiations with intended financial backers Aviva and the Welsh Government.
The circuit is being designed to FIA and FIM standards with the aim of hosting events such as the MotoGP, Superbike World Championship, Motocross World Championship and the World Touring Car Championship.
The project was unveiled towards the end of 2011. After submitting plans to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, the circuit received unanimous approval of its outline planning and was given the go ahead to begin development in early July 2013, amidst opposition from groups including Gwent Wildlife Trust, Brecon Beacons National Park, Natural Resources Wales and the Association of Motor Racing Circuit Owners. However, by the end of July, the Welsh Government put the plans on hold whilst it reviewed the planning application.
The Welsh Government indicated in August 2013 that the local council would take decisions concerning the project. It was later confirmed by the developers that construction was due to start around Christmas 2013 and should be completed in 2015/16.
In 2014 the developers asked the Welsh and UK governments to commit up to £50m towards the scheme. While the developers believe that 6,000 jobs would be created, and the scheme has strong local support, there are wider objections on environmental grounds for the developers to address.
In July 2014, the then Environment Minister Alun Davies was found by an investigation of the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government to have broken the Ministerial Code through lobbying Natural Resources Wales in favour of the racetrack - due to be built in his constituency of Blaenau Gwent - leaving his political career "on the edge of a cliff". He was sacked the following week, with the senior civil servant writing to the First Minister referring to "the week we have all just endured".
In November 2014, controversy surfaced after allegations that the Welsh Government had interfered with due process on planning, particularly through gaining privileged information from the Planning Inspectorate.
On 17 November 2015 it was reported that the Welsh government had given final approval to deregister the common land on which the circuit is to be built. However the development's congestion at peak times (race days) obstructing the sole main access to areas of Wales to the west (Heads of Valleys route A465) and near Towns is yet to be made clear and resolved.
In April 2016, departing Welsh Economy Minister Edwina Hart confirmed that the Welsh Government could not provide the required 100% guarantee to back construction of the circuit. Insurance company Aviva had stated that it could not guarantee even 20% of the £357M package, and hence the Welsh Government had been forced to state its position. Hart said there was a "significant question around the viability of the project" and hence was an "unacceptable risk" to the government underwriting the entire project, and therefore she had "reluctantly come to the conclusion" not to proceed with the guarantee after legal advice. Michael Carrick, CEO of Heads of The Valleys Development Company, said negotiations with the Welsh Government and Aviva would continue.
In August 2014, after the circuit had signed a contract with motorcycle Grand Prix organisers Dorna to host the events from 2015—2019 (with a possible extension to 2024), circuit official Chris Herring confirmed that the facility would not be ready for the 2015 event and an alternative venue at Donington Park, England was chosen by early September. In 2015 Donington Park announced that they would not be able to host the 2015 British MotoGP due to not having received payment by Circuit of Wales backers. It was subsequently decided that Silverstone should host the event for 2015 and 2016.
- Liam Moffett (2013-07-10). "Councillors grant planning approval to £280m Circuit of Wales racetrack". Wales Online. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- Minister 'cannot underwrite £357m Circuit of Wales track' BBC News Wales, 6 April 2016, Retrieved 8 April 2016
- Donington Park to host 2015 British Motorcycle Grand Prix motogp.com 2 September 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-06
- "Circuit of Wales gets go ahead". Top Gear. 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Welcome to the Circuit of Wales". Circuit of Wales. 2013-12-05. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- Nick Servini (2011-11-21). "Ebbw Vale £200m racing circuit 'could host MotoGP'". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Planning documents". Circuit of Wales. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Circuit of Wales race track given go ahead at Ebbw Vale". BBC News. 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "£280m Circuit of Wales plan put on hold by Welsh government". BBC News. 2013-07-31. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Circuit of Wales 'put on hold' | MotoGP News | Jul 2013". Crash.Net. 2013-07-31. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Circuit of Wales, Ebbw Vale, in planning decision boost". BBC News. 2013-08-23. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Circuit of Wales, Ebbw Vale: Work to start on £280m race circuit". BBC News. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "£280m Circuit of Wales race track makes cash request". BBC. 11 March 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "Circuit of Wales motorsports complex plan drives local controversy". The Guardian. 25 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
- Alun Davies breached code by lobbying but will not be sacked BBC News 1 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-12
- Carwyn Jones: Alun Davies was 'on edge of a cliff'. BBC News 9 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-12
- Alun Davies sacking: In full - the emails that raised concerns walesonline.co.uk 8 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-12
- Circuit of Wales planning process 'interfered with' by ministers, says Friends of Earth Cymru and Plaid walesonline.co.uk 26 November 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-11
- "£325m Circuit of Wales plans in Ebbw Vale pass 'vital' hurdle". BBC. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "Final approval given for £315m Circuit of Wales project in Blaenau Gwent". Wales Online. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- Who are the people behind the Circuit of Wales? circuitofwales.com Retrieved 2014-09-06
- "Circuit of Wales Construction Confirmed Despite British MotoGP Problems". OBAS Group. 11 Feb 2014.
- "Silverstone reaches agreement with Circuit of Wales to host MotoGP in 2015 and 2016". Chronicle of Northampton.