“Cir­cuit of Wales has proved a bit con­tro­ver­sial” ”

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Apos­i­tive break­through for once. Or is it?

Last week, as you can read on page 10, the Heads of the Val­leys Devel­op­ment Com­pany sub­mit­ted a pro­posal which met with the terms of the Welsh Gov­ern­ment for sup­port­ing the Cir­cuit of Wales project. In sim­ple terms, it reck­ons it has the amount of in­vest­ment the Welsh Gov­ern­ment has asked for to get it in­volved in at­tribut­ing to the cir­cuit’s con­struc­tion.

That, with any other story, may lead you to be­lieve that a Cir­cuit of Wales is go­ing to be un­der con­struc­tion in the ‘near’ fu­ture. But this is the Cir­cuit of Wales and some­how it never feels that sim­ple.

The project, which was un­veiled back in 2011, can po­litely be de­scribed as a bit con­tro­ver­sial. On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions the build­ing of the cir­cuit has been put back thanks to plan­ning, fund­ing and other is­sues. The ini­tial date the track was sup­posed to be built by was 2015/16. And we still don’t have a track.

In Au­gust 2014 the cir­cuit an­nounced a five-year deal for Mo­togp, but that has been de­ferred to Sil­ver­stone. Then in Jan­uary 2015 a pub­lic in­quiry was called by the Welsh Plan­ning In­spec­torate to dis­cuss the re­quest of the cir­cuit to dereg­is­ter the land to build on.

The fi­nal cou­ple of ma­jor dates on the time­line are April and July 2016. In April, the Welsh Gov­ern­ment con­firmed it would not un­der­write the project and in July it con­firmed that The Cir­cuit of Wales, through its pri­vate back­ers, needed to un­der­write at least 50 per cent of the risk for the venue and pro­vide at least 50 per cent of the fund­ing.

Now, we have some good news. But what does it ac­tu­ally mean? Here goes.

The Cir­cuit’s new pro­posal meets the cri­te­ria set out by the gov­ern­ment. Now, the gov­ern­ment will un­der­take due dili­gence into the project. What does that mean?

Here’s Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for Econ­omy and In­fra­struc­ture Ken Skates to tell you: “The due dili­gence ex­er­cise will in­clude rig­or­ous value for money test­ing and a Fit and Proper Per­son as­sess­ment of the di­rec­tors,” he said in a state­ment. “It will also as­sess de­liv­er­abil­ity and the long term sus­tain­abil­ity of the pro­posal. We will seek clar­ity on the types and num­ber of jobs di­rectly and in­di­rectly re­sult­ing from the project; how those job num­bers com­pare to the ini­tially re­ported fig­ure of 6,000, as well as the likely num­ber of jobs that would be filled by lo­cal peo­ple.”

So, the ques­tion you’ll no doubt have is: Is this go­ing to go ahead?

There’s no cat­e­gor­i­cal an­swer to that. But this is the first piece of pos­i­tive news since the cir­cuit was forced to go back to the draw­ing board with its fund­ing model.

It’s been a long and dif­fi­cult jour­ney. But is the cir­cuit close to ac­tu­ally start­ing? As soon as the due dili­gence is done, we’ll fi­nally have an­swers.

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