Common-land issues make future of ‘Circuit of Wales’ uncertain

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The Circuit of Wales plan still has a long way to go before it can proceed, because of the need to sort out common-land issues. The application, from the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, for a motor-racing centre was approved by Blaenau Gwent council yesterday (10 July).

As a number of objectors pointed out, most of the 344-hectare site is registered common land. Thus the proposal cannot go ahead until suitable exchange-land has been provided and approved by the Welsh Government. The site is on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, close to Ebbw Vale.

The Open Spaces Society, Natural Resources Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, the Gwent and Brecknock Wildlife Trusts and other objectors argued that the development would result in unacceptable loss of common land. Blaenau Gwent’s planning officer, Mr Steve Smith, pointed out to the council that ‘notably, the site is common land and a separate and often lengthy deregistration process would follow under separate legislation before any works can start’. He also said that ‘the ability to meet the criteria for replacement common land is likely to be difficult to achieve from one landowner or in one location given the scale of land required’ and that the applicant has asked the council to look at areas which it may be able to allow to be used as replacement common land.

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘Nearly the whole development is on registered common land—Trefil Las and Twyn Bryn-March—where the public has the right to walk and ride. It is essential that the applicant finds suitable land in exchange, a tall order, and that this is approved by the Welsh Government, before any development can go ahead. This requirement leaves a big question-mark over the development and it is not yet clear that it can proceed.

‘We do not know where the applicant can find such land, but until the common-land issues are resolved, nothing can happen on the common.

‘We are dismayed that the council has approved this damaging development. We accept the need for jobs, but we fear for the environment and people’s quiet enjoyment of the commons.’

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