Judgement day beckons for Donington

doningtonparkplanoct08-lgThe fate of the British Grand Prix will be decided this week when Donington Park’s plans to host the race from 2010 are put before North West Leicestershire District Council’s planning committee for approval.

The multi-million pound master plan was originally scheduled for a November hearing, but Donington Park’s Chief Executive Simon Gillet and the council decided to delay the process in order to “plug holes” in the application.

On the back of much scepticism that the track will not be ready in time, as well as opposition from environmentalists, Gillet and his team received favourable news this weekend with North West Leicestershire’s neighbouring authority, Derbyshire District Council, endorsing the plans on the grounds of economic benefit to the region.

“The development offers substantial economic opportunities,” Mark Alfat, Derbyshire’s director of community services, told the Derby Evening Telegraph. “The grand prix has the potential to attract both visitor spend and inward investment.”

“New facilities, along with associated developments, will create substantial construction employment opportunities. This would bring new investment and highly-skilled employment opportunities to the area.”

“Track revisions will generally be positive, or give rise to only very minor changes. However, there are a small number of areas which could experience notable changes in noise levels.”

A £100 million upgrade of the circuit and facilities is at the heart of the planning application and it is generally believed that without this redevelopment Donington would lose its ten year contract to host the British Grand Prix.

If the proposals are approved construction work will start to lengthen the track and build a new pit and paddock complex, media centre, clubhouse and hospitality suites. The construction is expected to be funded by various investment schemes, including the leasing of houses next to the track and a debenture scheme.

Gillet has also ticked the environmental box by banning drivers accessing the track in their car during the grand prix weekend. Ticket-holders will be expected to use a park and ride scheme to enter the circuit which should cut down on traffic levels.

One potential bone of contention is Gillet’s idea to close the East East Midlands Airport, which is located next to the circuit. The aim is to use the airport exclusively for transporting fans to the track on race day using more than 50 commercial jets, as well as executive jets and helicopters.

County Councillor Nicholas Rushton, North West Leicestershire’s county council cabinet member for highways, described the proposal as “bonkers”

“As far as I am concerned, they are completely and utterly bonkers,” he is quoted as saying by pitpass. “East Midlands Airport is completely commercially run and I would be surprised if they would agree to stop their flights.”