PLANNERS have been accused of holding up progress on the building of new £30m Lake Torrent circuit in Coalisland and forcing the cancellation of a world racing event.
However Mid Ulster District Council have stated that ‘pre-commencement’ planning conditions that were attached to the permission for the project have not been met.
Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy criticised the council’s planning department after the revelation that the World Superbike Championship will not be coming in 2019 due to a delay on work at the site.
Amid great fanfare it was announced in February that a three-year deal had been reached between the developers, Manna Developments, and World Superbike promoters Dorna.
The development of Lake Torrent is set to transform 163 acres of the former clay pits into a world class racing circuit and it was hoped it will regenerate the Coalisland area through new jobs in the business, leisure and engineering sectors – as well as boosting tourism in Mid Ulster.
The Sinn Féin MP has criticised the planners for ordering the developers to carry out a geological survey to ascertain whether there are underground shafts under the area from the old mining days.
However he maintains that, “It is a tickbox exercise and there is no doubt whatsoever: the shafts aren’t there.”
However a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council said planning permission was granted for the Lake Torrent race track in September
2017, with a number of specific ‘pre-commencement’ planning conditions. These included the need for an assessment of historical mining
activity within the site following consultation with Geological Survey NI.
Speaking to the Herald, the local MP also stated that the survey in search of underground mines will cost “at least tens of thousands of pounds and is unnecessarily delaying the development of the project”.
He added, “It is hugely frustrating. The shafts were dug out and the ground refilled. They needed to lay the track during the summer and are now looking for shafts that aren’t there. The developers have been told to undertake geological surveys which are very expensive.
“It is now endangering the future development of the whole site and now we have lost a race for next year. Expenses for the development are also ongoing while work has come to a halt.
“There are two lakes on the site and if there were shafts the water would run out of it. It is a tickbox exercise and there is no doubt whatsoever the shafts aren’t there.”
Once completed, the new motorsport centre of excellence could also prove the catalyst for international events coming to Tyrone, such as the World Super Bike Championships and British Touring Car Championships, attracting up to 30,000 spectators.
The 2.2 mile track, designed by British motorsport design firm Driven International, is expected to be an FIA and FIM approved course, offering 12 turns and a mix of technical and high speed sequences.