MAY 5, 2009

Donington and Silverstone

In the next few hours the Donington Park planning permission will be under scrutiny again at a North West Leicestershire District Council meeting in Coalville. This will review the decision taken in January regarding the development of the circuit. It has been recommended by planning officers that the permission be refused at the end of this month if Donington Park has not secured agreements related to event management and traffic which were supposed to have been completed by the end of March.

"The Council has already extended the deadline for signing the agreement by another month, allowing four months in total, and has continued to work with Donington Park to meet the deadlines and terms of the permission," said Councillor Richard Blunt, the leader of North West Leicestershire District Council. "We can't keep extending the deadline for signing the agreement. Donington Park has already started construction and to allow further, unchecked construction to take place may make the original planning permission invalid and any future control the Council may wish to retain over events would be severely diluted. We are disappointed that, despite the Council making every effort to accommodate Donington Park, the Council has had to take this action. We must have a consistent approach to the planning process and the Donington Park application is being handled in the same way we would any other development."

If Donington fails to deliver, the planning permission will be rescinded and the work will not be able to go ahead. This will mean that the plan to host a British GP in 2010 may have to be abandoned. If that happens Britain may lose its Grand Prix.

A number of European Formula 1 races are protected by the FIA - at least in theory. The commercial rights contract between the federation and Formula One Management (FOM) is understood to contain a clause that states that the British, Italian, German, French, Monaco and Belgian Grands Prix should always be part of the World Championship. Unfortunately the federation has to act upon this clause and in the case of the French GP this was not done and so that race lapsed from the calendar. There are, therefore, no guarantees that the other races will enjoy any more protection than France did.

The option, of course, would be for the race to return to Silverstone and although Bernie Ecclestone has said that is not going to happen, he may need to return to the Northamptonshire circuit to keep the F1 teams happy. They want a British Grand Prix and if Donington fails to happen, Silverstone is the only sensible option left. Silverstone believes that in the circumstances Ecclestone will accept a race at Silverstone again, even if it is not for as much money as he had hoped. Silverstone is in the process of finishing off its plan to upgrade its facilities with plans for a new pit and paddock complex between Club and Abbey. Included in the complex are new garages, a race control building, media centre, hospitality and VIP spectator zones. Silverstone believes that the new complex will ensure that teams and sponsors are provided with world-class facilities and will bring to an end criticism that Silverstone does not have good enough facilities. The building work is the first phase of a 10-year plan that will see the track develop a manufacturer test centre, business park, extreme sport and leisure complex, two hotels, a new university campus and a 'Welcome Centre'.