A new economic catalyst for the Valleys

Sebastian Barrett believes the Circuit of Wales will be a game-changer

The Circuit of Wales, a £250 million motor sport development in Ebbw Vale will be more than a racing track. It will bring international events such as Moto GP, World Superbikes and Touring Cars to Wales. But it will also have the facilities to carry out high-end engineering together with a technology centre capable of attracting global automotive companies to undertake research into green transport. Alongside will be on-site industrial units and hotels.

Regenerating Wales 

This is the last of a series of articles we have published this week outlining the potential impact major investment projects can have on the Welsh economy.

The project is set to bring £50 million a year into the Welsh economy. It will bring more than 3,000 jobs during the construction phase, and over 6,000 permanent jobs once the site is fully operational. These will be across a broad range of sectors. The development will attract upwards of 750,000 people a year into the area. In short the Circuit of Wales will drive change and transform lives in the Welsh valleys.

The Circle of Wales will have a central role in developing the concept of a ‘city region’ linking Cardiff with its Valley hinterlands. It will have a central role in addressing the imbalance between the Heads of the Valleys and the Welsh capital.

The Heads of the Valleys Development Company is the consortium driving the motor sport project. It comprises a range of global leaders in infrastructure and investment, as well as motor sport experts. They chose Blaenau Gwent over other locations in the UK for three reasons:

  • Impact on the area,
  • Natural topography, which makes for a more interesting racetrack and
  • Good road links to the rest of Britain.

The project is well-timed, with the improvements to the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road scheduled to be completed prior to Circuit of Wales’ proposed launch date in 2015. The Circuit should also contribute to the economic rationale for further infrastructure development in the Valleys, in particular the proposed high-tech Cardiff Metro system. This would put in place fast, regular, and reliable connectivity between Heads of the Valleys to the capital city.

Circuit of Wales will give a boost to those pressing the case for the Cardiff Metro because its flow of visitors will put numbers on the line, not to mention the people travelling to work. It will be as much about people going up the Valley, as it is going down.

The combination of a world-class motor sport circuit and a new Metro system would re-establish the economic network between the more deprived areas of south Wales. Together they present Ebbw Vale developing  Blaenau Gwent a quite different persona as a hub for activity within the region.

The Circuit of Wales will give the Valleys more to bring to the table, balancing the attention inevitably given to Cardiff when the city region concept is discussed. For many of the communities in Blaenau Gwent such as Blaina which have lost their economic role can now look forward to becoming dormitory towns.

Since the decline of coal and steel the Valleys have not experienced large-scale private sector-led infrastructure developments. The Circuit of the Valleys will provide just this in a sustainable way. With its world-renowned motor sport events, it’ll be the equivalent of having four Ryder Cups a year in Blaenau Gwent, drawing a large proportion of people to spend money in the local area.

The Circuit of Wales will be a new economic catalyst for the Valleys and its economy. As well as reinforcing the case for new investment in the transport network, it will provide spin-offs in terms of tourism. People who will be arriving at a big event will also want to explore the wider area, spending their money in pubs, restaurants and hotels and bed and breakfasts across the whole of south east Wales.

Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council is shortly to decide on the planning application for the Circuit of Wales. It has an opportunity to embrace this vision for a sustained economic regeneration of the Heads of the Valleys by building stronger links with the Welsh coastal region.

Sebastian Barrett is a freelance journalist involved in communications for some of the biggest construction projects in Wales.

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