Demolition, demolition, demolition! Mansell's rural racing venue blocked

F1's Nigel Mansell in despair as C4's Kirstie Allsopp takes a wrecking ball to his race-track dream
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The Independent Online

During his driving career, ex-Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell was rarely outmanoeuvred. But now, it appears, he has met his match - in the unlikely form of TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp.

Mr Mansell, who had proposed a multimillion-pound motor racing venue in the Devon countryside, has had his planning application thrown out by authorities after a campaign by local villagers, led by a tenacious Ms Allsopp.

The announcement by East Devon District Council was hailed yesterday as a "huge victory" by Location, Location, Location presenter Ms Allsopp, who has been fighting against the development for a year.

Ms Allsopp, 34, has become a figurehead for the "Cancel Mansell" campaign, set up to halt what the group describes as "a self-indulgent, profit-making enterprise" to build a "monolithic monstrosity" in an area of outstanding natural beauty. For his part, Mr Mansell had been so confident of success that he had even authorised the start of work on a car- park at the site, a move for which he will now have to apply for retrospective planning permission. If he does not get it, the work will have to be demolished.

"This is a huge, real victory for the people of the area," said Ms Allsopp, who lives near the proposed site at Dunkeswell with her partner Ben Andersen, their five-month old son Bay and two stepsons. "I don't understand why this application was even being considered. It's difficult enough to get recognition for an area of outstanding natural beauty, and once you've got it, you should protect it. We cannot tarmac over the whole country."

Mr Mansell's plan was to turn an existing go-kart track near the village into a major amateur racing venue - complete with a 220-seat restaurant, workshops, garages, flats, a control tower and a large, hangar-style administration block. Ms Allsopp and her fellow residents argued, successfully, that the project would be disastrous for the community - polluting a beautiful area, adversely affecting local businesses and overburdening tiny country roads.

Despite the district council's decision, the Mansell camp would not concede the chequered flag to Ms Allsopp and her companions. Last night Bryan Holmes, a spokesman for Mr Mansell, said they intended to go back with new plans.

"The application was declined by planning officers at East Devon Council on the basis that the building was too large and it was inappropriate to have something on that scale in an area of outstanding natural beauty," Mr Holmes said. "We've now started having discussions to see if there's a way of getting anything similar built there on a smaller scale - perhaps a single- storey building."

Ms Allsopp denied the dispute was personal. "This is nothing personal against Nigel Mansell," she said. "If it was Nelson Mandela building this track I'd feel exactly the same way - it's just the wrong place to do it."