Brands Hatch waits for a ruling

BRANDS HATCH LEISURE will discover this week whether or not the Sevenoaks Council will agreed to grant it planning permission for a huge rebuilding program needed to bring the circuit up to Formula 1 standards. If the circuit gets the go-ahead and there are no further legal appeals, Brands Hatch will be able to begin work on the $30m rebuilding of the track which it hopes will be finished in time for the British Grand Prix to be held there in the summer of 2002. The Kent County Council agreed last week that the project could go ahead but the ultimate responsibility rests with the Sevenoaks Council. There are signs that it will agree to the planning permission as the rules for previously-developed sites (such as Brands Hatch) are rather more relaxed than totally new developments (such as the much-delayed McLaren factory). Sevenoaks has more Green Belt land than any other council in the London area, with a total of 85,000 acres and in recent months there have been other examples of development going ahead to allow leisure activities at previously-developed sites. The Havering Council recently granted permission for the construction of sporting facilities, parking and housing on a site which had previously been occupied by a school. It was concluded that the green belt would not be harmed as the site being developed was no larger than the previous school site and the considerable benefits to the community in leisure facilities was deemed to be sufficient to allow the housing as well.

If planning permission is denied Brands Hatch will have the right to host the race but will not have a track on which the event can take place and will then have to negotiate with Silverstone to use the Northamptonshire circuit. There has been considerable negotiation between the two tracks in recent months, including discussions about a much broader alliance which could result in the two organizations joining forces to share the Grand Prix in the future. A merger of BHL and Silverstone activities would create a dominant force in British motor racing and might help to streamline the current plethora of different and conflicting championships in operation which in turn would enable better packaging of the series (along similar lines to the current PowerTour, which packages the British Formula 3, British GT and National Saloon Championships). This would mean fewer race meetings but they would be bigger and better and so could provide more income for the tracks. The organization would also be able to use its expertise to provide consultancy services and management to foreign venues.

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