Brands inquiry puts Donington on pole for GP

The 2002 British Grand Prix is almost certain to be held at Donington Park, following the government's decision to hold a public inquiry into plans to redevelop Brands Hatch

Brands inquiry puts Donington on pole for GP

BHL, the owners of the Kent track, have a contract to promote the event from 2002 and can switch it to an alternative circuit if they wish. However, following another scathing attack on Silverstone, the present venue, by Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, Donington now appears to be the only viable alternative.

According to the government's planning minister, Nick Raynsford, the decision to call in Brands Hatch's planning application is due to possible conflicts between the scheme - which includes a new pits complex and grandstands - and the circuit's location within protected green belt land.

A statement from Brands Hatch said: "Given the historic reputation of Brands Hatch as the home of motorsport in the UK, we are surprised that the planning permission required to see the return of the British Grand Prix back to Kent has been called in by the government."

The inquiry will study the possible effects of the redevelopment and the event itself on the environment, nature conservation and transport in the area.

Although it is by no means certain that the application will be rejected, the probable timescale of the inquiry has effectively ended the chances of a Brands Hatch race in 2002. Past precedents, such as the application to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow Airport, have shown that public inquiries can potentially drag on for years. The plan includes the removal of 14 hectares of ancient woodland from the site and has already met with opposition from environmental pressure group The Woodland Trust.

A spokeswoman at the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions said: "Even if there is a favourable decision, we understand it is unlikely that the 2002 British Grand Prix will be held at Brands Hatch, but that is a matter for the applicant."

Sources at Brands Hatch say the minimum time required to carry out the changes is six months. But other complications, including re-locating badgers that live on the site, could lengthen the process further.

Donington Park, which hosted the 1993 European Grand Prix, is about to embark on a major revamp of its facilities, regardless of whether it lands the Grand Prix in 2002. Speaking on ITV before Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, Bernie Ecclestone was positive on Donington's chances of hosting the race, but used the opportunity to launch another attack on Silverstone's suitably as a venue.

Ecclestone described the Northamptonshire track as an old house that needed pulling down and rebuilding, and added: "With Silverstone we should have the best track in the world, but instead we have the worst."



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