£10m plans for Snetterton circuit

Norfolk's economy is set for a major shot in the arm following the unveiling of multimillion pound plans to turn Snetterton into a world-renowned racing and motorsport hub.

Norfolk's economy is set for a major shot in the arm following the unveiling of multimillion pound plans to turn Snetterton into a world-renowned racing and motorsport hub.

Nearly 600 new jobs could be created in a £10m investment at the south Norfolk circuit under proposals for a new hotel, race school business park and track expansion, which would help kick start commerce along the A11 corridor.

County and district council leaders welcomed the ambitious plans last night,, saying they would put Snetterton on the national and international racing map and add weight to a campaign to get the A11 fully dualled.

The “radical” redevelopment would give new life to the circuit and bring new racing teams, advanced engineering firms and professional drivers to Norfolk and boost the local economy by £1m a year, said owner Jonathan Palmer, chief executive of MotorSport Vision (MSV).

The plans by the ex-Formula 1 driver will also see the extension of the two mile track to accommodate everything bar F1 cars - if approved by Breckland Councillors.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said the proposals provided further evidence to the government that the last remaining single carriageway stretch of the A11 between Fiveways and Thetford needed to be dualled as soon as possible.

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He said: “I welcome the investment by MotorSport Vision for the Norfolk economy. It will be a tremendous boost not just for Snetterton and the surrounding area, but will have a considerable effect for the Rural Enterprise Valley. It will elevate Snetterton on to the international stage.

“Norfolk's potential has been constrained for many years by the single-carriageway stretch of the A11. It is the largest cul-de-sac in the country. I am sure the proposals by MSV will go some way to adding impetus to make sure the dualling starts by 2011.”

William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council which has been working to promote the motorsport and advanced engineering sectors between Thetford and Hethel over the last 18 months as part of the Rural Enterprise Valley (REV) project, said the scheme would “bring the A11 corridor to life”.

“It is an excellent opportunity for Breckland and Norfolk and will create both a mix of low and high- skilled jobs,” he said.

Mr Palmer, whose company bought Snetterton in 2004 and owns four other UK tracks, submitted an application last week to turn 12.5ha of agricultural and brownfield land near the circuit into a Snetterton Business Park.

The outline plans include:

A 50-bedroom hotel with conference facilities, café, restaurant and shops, which will employ 30 people.

22,000 sq ft of office space for design and development companies that would create 100 jobs.

Eight car and motorbike retail and specialist dealerships totalling

75,600 sq ft and creating 25 jobs.

Thirty light industrial and engineering units to house vehicle engineering companies - 300 jobs.

Thirteen race team units and a motorsport school totalling 45,000 sq ft - 130 jobs.

The proposals will also see the biggest alterations to the Snetterton circuit in its 57-year history to meet FIA Grade 2 standards to welcome the World Touring Car Championship, Champ Cars, F2, and Le Mans Endurance Series sports cars and enable Norfolk to host a world-class racing event.

Mr Palmer said: “We have big plans for Snetterton. It's all subject to planning permission, but we are optimistic that will go through. Snetterton has always been one of the tracks with a good, workmanlike reputation, but it is not going to be top of many drivers' list of favourite tracks. We want to put it up there.”

MSV officials also believe the rebuilding of the Snetterton motor school will turn it into one of the best race training facilities in the world.

The long-awaited scheme has been in the pipeline for more than three years, but has only just been submitted to Breckland Council after track officials and environmental health officials struck a peace deal over noise issues. If approved this year, Mr Palmer hopes to complete the project in the next five years.

Jamie Hopper, Snetterton circuit manager, added: “At last Snetterton is to receive the investment that it deserves. With this next major phase, Snetterton will become an exciting and first-class destination for all those interested in motorsport and performance driving and riding.”