The first new racecourses to open in Britain for 75 years could stage meetings in 2002, following approval by the British Horseracing Board yesterday for schemes at Fairlop Waters, in north-east London, and Pembrey, near Swansea.
Pembrey, which will be only the second course in Wales, plans to stage a mixture of Flat and jumps racing on turf, in the traditional manner. The proposed development at Fairlop Waters, however, would be a radical departure for British racing.
The scheme envisages a floodlit, dirt track, with Flat racing on 31 Thursday evenings throughout the year. At present, evening racing in Britain takes place only between April and August. City workers, who could reach the course within 30 minutes on the Central Line underground system, will be a key target audience, while the course also hopes that every meeting will be televised.
Wiggins Group plc, the property developers behind the plans, will invest £40m in construction of the new course, which would hold 20,000 spectators and include a panoramic, glass-fronted restaurant. They will offer £1m each year in prize money, and stage trial events for British horses with entries in major international dirt races, such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup in the United States and the Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Two further proposals for the first new courses in Britain since Taunton in 1927 were denied BHB approval yesterday. A plan for a track at Lee-on-Solent, and another for a floodlit circuit adjoining Newcastle racecourse, were both refused an allocation of fixtures.
The two successful schemes must still submit to the planning process, and the London City racecourse in particular may face stiff opposition from local residents. The proposed site is on green belt land, and the final decision on its future will probably rest with the Department of the Environment.