Brands Hatch meets the greens

IT has been a long time in coming but there is no surprise that Brands Hatch Leisure has run into problems from environmentalists over its application for planning permission to develop the circuit into a Formula 1 standard facility. The plans mean that 37 acres of woodland would need to removed. This would include most of the area inside the existing track and run-off areas on the outside of the circuit. The independent Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Woodland Trust have joined forces with the Forestry Commission - a government department - to oppose the development, arguing that the woods in question are ancient and should be preserved. It is worth noting that in February 1997 the British government set a target of doubling England's forestry in the course of the next 50 years.

Brands Hatch says that the woodland in question is of little conservation value and that they have plans for planting five times as many trees as they cut down. The company says that it is cooperating closely with English Nature (formerly the Nature Conservancy Council for England) which is the body responsible for advising the Secretary of States for the Environment on all matters relating to nature conservation and that a detailed environmental management plan is being developed. The opposition to the planning permission means that there will now be no decision until March 2000 at the earliest. McLaren International encountered similar planning permission problems when it embarked on the planning for its new headquarters. An application for planning permission was made in July 1995. It was not granted until March 1997 after a public inquiry. Work began in August 1998 - three years after the application was made. If that is any guide - and, obviously, circumstances are different - it will be the autumn of 2003 before planning permission is granted - and that is not much good when you have a race scheduled to take place in July 2002.

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