Wales could soon resound to the roar of motor racing under plans to build an international circuit, attracting thousands of petrol-head spectators to the Welsh valleys.Duet Group, a London based hedge fund, says it has put together a consortium of investors to build a £250m circuit near Ebbw Vale.
Duet, which says it has been working on the scheme for 3 years, two weeks ago met with government ministers in London on possible funding for what it describes as an “infrastructure and regeneration” project. Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, arranged a meeting between Michael Carrick, head of infrastructure at Duet and Cheryl Gillan, the secretary of state for Wales in the Tory-led coalition.
Mr Smith, a member of the Labour party, said he was “surprised how much she knew about motor racing.” Duet says it is now in consultations with the local council and with the Welsh government in Cardiff to secure planning permission. Mr Carrick told the Financial Times the project was “still a year and a half from financial close.” But he hopes to be in a position to submit a preliminary planning application in early 2012.
“We think this is a game changer for the region. It fully aligns with what the government has been talking about with regard to the need for infrastructure investment in areas of economic need,” Mr Carrick said. Mr Smith’s Blaenau Gwent constituency is an area of high joblessness with a quarter of its workforce either on jobseekers allowance or invalidity benefits, and the MP described the project as “once in a generation” opportunity to bring jobs to the area.
Mr Carrick said the ambition is to turn the site into a technology and research hub for the UK auto industry as a well as a circuit venue for international motorsport events. Mr Carrick would not disclose the identity of the investors but he said the group included long term pension funds, some with links to the area. “The reason we like this sort of investment is the vast number of other industries, from leisure to hospitality, that will get involved,” he said.
Support from government “would be very helpful” in allowing the investor group to secure other private sector support, he said. The chosen site close to the Rassau industrial estate is on private land near the Brecon Beacons. Mr Smith said part of the land is owned by the Duke of Beaufort. Mr Carrick refused to say who owned the land but said landowners had signalled they were ready to support the project.