Blaenau Gwent £250m race track plan 'environment risk'

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Media captionDevelopers say the track at Rassau would bring world-class motor racing to the valleys

Plans for a £250m race track in Blaenau Gwent pose an "unacceptable environmental risk" and should be rejected in their current form.

That is the view of Wales' environmental watchdog, Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Blaenau Gwent council will consider plans for the Circuit of Wales project later this month.

Developers say the track at Rassau would bring world-class motor racing to the valleys.

But in a submission to the council, seen by the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales, NRW said the plans are unacceptable.

NRW, which advises Welsh government ministers on environmental issues, told the council: "We consider that the scale of the proposal and its location on open moorland bordering the Brecon Beacons National Park would have unacceptable environmental impacts, including impacts on the special qualities of the protected landscape."

The proposed site is on land just north of the Rassau industrial estate.

The NRW added that the development would impact on registered historical landscapes and parts of the World Heritage site at Blaenavon.

It said it also had concerns about loss of biodiversity, watercourses and peat bogs.

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has also told Sunday Politics Wales that they opposed the current development.

Silverstone 'rival'

"While we recognise that the proposed scheme could bring social and economic benefits to the Blaenau Gwent area, having given the matter serious consideration the authority is objecting to this application because of its proximity to the national park," said an authority spokesperson.

"The scheme, and the resulting noise and light pollution produced, could potentially impact the special qualities of the national park including the ecology, archaeology and visual amenity of the area."

Earlier this week, Welsh Secretary David Jones visited the site on the outskirts of Ebbw Vale and said that the UK government would be "very interested" to see the developers' vision for the site once completed.

He told BBC Wales: "This is potentially an extremely exciting project which could be generating maybe as many as 6,000 jobs in the long term, in an area which of course is in sore need of regeneration."

The developers, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company Ltd, said that the completed project will rival Silverstone, home to Britain's Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Talks continue

It is claimed the Wales track would be hosting world class motorsport events, including motorcycling's Moto GP.

In a statement, NRW told Sunday Politics Wales: "We have objected to the proposal in its current form as it would have an impact on the environment and on protected landscapes.

"However, we will continue to work with the developers to find possible solutions to the concerns we have."

Gwent Wildlife Trust warns that the circuit proposals could have a "catastrophic effect on the local green space".

"We oppose the race track - not because we are anti-development but because we are standing up for wildlife which is one of our charitable objectives," said chief executive Tom Clarke.

"We think that by standing up for wildlife we're standing up for people as well because of the great threat to the environment that this proposal poses."

But Donna Wallbank, who runs the Kutz and Kurls salon in Bynmawr and chairs the town's business forum said that any promises of investment in the area should be welcomed.

"We've got potentially 6,500 jobs once it's there, let alone all the jobs and the creation of jobs when the development is being created and built.

"I think the excitement and the fact that people actually believe that Blaenau Gwent is worth something again is something to be enthusiastic about," she said.

The developers and Blaenau Gwent Council declined to comment on the submission from Natural Resources Wales .

The plans will be considered by the council on 26 June.

There will be more on the story on Sunday Politics Wales at 11:00 BST on BBC1 Wales on Sunday.

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