Planned racing circuit in wrong location, location, location

Nigel Mansell's plans for a motor racing circuit have angered Kirstie Allsopp, who says, 'not on my doorstep'
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The Independent Online

"Location, Location, Location" is a mantra that has made TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp a household name. Yet when she moved to the house near the village of Dunkeswell in the Devon countryside no one told her neighbour, ex-Formula One champion Nigel Mansell.

On the face of it, Ms Allsopp's latest home, a sprawling country pile on the Devon-Somerset border, seems to typify her best property-buying advice. The house, which she shares with her partner Ben Andersen and two young stepsons, has stunning views across the peaceful Blackdown Hills of east Devon, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

There is just one problem: Mr Mansell is planning a multimillion-pound motor racing venue right on her doorstep. The plan has infuriated the heavily pregnant Ms Allsopp. Even though she is due to give birth in less than three weeks, she has joined villagers in an effort to halt the plans. A "Cancel Mansell" campaign is under way to stop what the group claim is "a self-indulgent profit-making exercise" to build a "monolithic monstrosity."

"I don't understand why this planning application is even being considered," said Ms Allsopp, 34. "The residents of the village are completely distraught. In an area of outstanding natural beauty, something like this is completely unacceptable."

Mr Mansell's plans to turn an existing go-kart track into a major amateur racing venue - complete with 220-seat restaurant, workshops, garages, control tower and a large, hangar-style administration block - are being considered by the local council. Ms Allsopp and her fellow residents argue that, if approved, the project would be disastrous for the community - polluting a beautiful area, shattering its tranquillity, adversely affecting local businesses, such as holiday cottage lets, and overburdening the tiny country roads.

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

Mr Mansell, 52, who is based in Jersey, acquired the Dunkes-well track, where karts have been raced since the early 1970s, at the end of last year. The first stage of his planning application has been passed, allowing him to lengthen the track. The next stage, currently under discussion, involves building the restaurant and the main hangar facility. Mr Mansell's representatives deny that the project will cause damage to the local area and accuse Ms Allsopp and her fellow campaigners of not checking their plans thoroughly enough.

"A lot of the things the locals are saying are derived from their own imaginations, rather than the reality of what is going to be happening on the circuit itself," said Bryan Holmes, a spokesman for Mr Mansell. "Safety and noise are two issues that have been improved dramatically; the track has already been resurfaced and an acoustic fence has been installed to help noise reduction."

The Mansell camp claims that, far from a second Silverstone, all that is proposed for the track is a well-equipped amateur racing track designed for karting and corporate driving days.

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