Plans for new British Grand Prix venue 'poor'

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The Independent Online

Designs for Britain's future home of Formula One racing have been branded "weak" in a Government report, it was revealed today.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's (Cabe) design review said the proposed scheme at Donington Park reflected "a poor understanding of the site and the opportunities it offers".

Owner Simon Gillett was granted planning permission to revamp the site by North West Leicestershire District Council earlier this month.

Gillett, via his company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, signed a 10-year agreement with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone last summer after Silverstone stalled over a new deal.

Silverstone, which has staged the British Grand Prix since 1987, is due to host its final race in June before Donington Park ushers in a supposedly new era for the event.

But the review by Cabe, carried out in December, has been less than positive about the proposed improvements by architects Tilke GMBH.

Its report said: "We think Donington Park could provide an exceptional setting for the British Grand Prix and we welcome the proposal to develop new facilities for Formula One on this site to represent Great Britain on the world stage.

"However, the scheme reflects a poor understanding of the site and the opportunities it offers."

It said unless a comprehensive masterplan and landscape strategy were present in the redevelopment, Donington Park would "continue to suffer from piecemeal and poorly co-ordinated racetrack development".

The report added: "The material presented gave us little confidence that a bold architectural vision had been developed for this facility to showcase Britain's racing pedigree and create at Donington Park a racetrack of global standing to match Formula One's most recent tracks in Bahrain, China and Malaysia designed by the same team that are working at Donington.

"The proposal represents a missed opportunity for Donington Park and we urge the design team to address the concerns raised below before planning permission is granted.

"Without the benefit of an overarching plan that pro-actively considers the long-term implications of hosting Formula One alongside other international racing events, the likelihood is that Donington Park will continue to be developed in a haphazard, piecemeal fashion."

But Donington Park circuit owner Simon Gillett today said they were aware of the Cabe document and its recommendations at the time of the planning hearing.

He said many issues raised were considered within their own six month planning phase and would continue to be addressed on an ongoing basis.

He said: "While we recognise Cabe's expertise on design and town planning, Donington Park is not a town, and our singular aim - to become the world's leading race circuit - led us to appoint the world leader in F1 circuit design.

"Tilke GMBH is a company that has worked on the majority of outstanding motorsport circuits worldwide and understands the requirements and compromises that have to be made to deliver a fully functional, workable, deliverable and yet still very striking Grand Prix circuit.

"Ultimately, our aim is the same as it has always been: deliver on time and to the highest standards of quality.

"The proof of that will be on the completion of the project in 2010, rather than on flat drawings in a design office."

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