I don’t know how many of you are aware of this, but there’s a new £250m racetrack planned for Ebbw Vale, to be known as the Circuit of Wales. Promising to bring high tech, top-wage jobs; tens of thousands of high-spending visitors; and much more besides. All this promised by a company – the Heads of the Valleys Development Company – set up specifically and solely to deliver this project. I was unable to find a website in the name of HVDC so I assume this serves as the company’s website. So who’s behind the company?
Well, one of the founding directors is named as Peter Thomas. Is this ‘Peter the Pies’, the man behind that great Welsh success story, Cardiff Blues? Or is it Swansea’s Peter Thomas, who is obviously big in tyres? Either way or neither way, according to Company Check, Peter Thomas joined (set up?) the company on June 30th, 2011. Presumably with a Mr M. A. Carrick, who is listed as joining the Board on the same day. Though according to Company Check Peter Thomas left the Board roughly a year later, on July 13th, 2012.# Which appears to have left the company with just one director! Whatever, August 13th, 2012, saw four new Board Members appointed: Mr S. J. Kealey, Mr T. N. Murnane, Ms A. L. Lloyd-Carrick and Mr A. P. Woodbury. Can we assume that Ms Lloyd-Carrick is somehow related?
Oh, yes . . . perhaps I should have mentioned earlier that this exciting new Welsh venture has its global headquarters at The Coach House, 79 Mill Way, Grantchester, Cambridge CB3 9ND. (Yes, that is the Grantchester of Rupert Brooke fame: ‘Corner of a foreign field’ and all that.)
Let us return to the man who appears to have been the co-founder of the Heads of the Valleys Development Company / Circuit of Wales, M. A. Carrick. Not so long ago he was working for Merrill Lynch, which many people believe is more responsible for the current financial crisis than perhaps any other single company. In fact, he’s described as nothing less than ML’s “Managing Director and Global Head of infrastructure”. Carrick now plies his trade – whatever it might be – with Duet Asset Management, which, reassuringly, appears to specialise in hedge funds. But he also seems to run Aventa Capital Partners Ltd., which looks like another new company set up to promote, or capitalise on, the Ebbw Vale project. Listed with Carrick on the ‘Investment Committee’ of Aventa are Charles Grime and David Bates.
Another name I have unearthed in connection with this venture is Chris Herring, formerly of Honda Racing. Though he is not mentioned in the Company Check extract referred to above. Of those who are mentioned as joining the company in August 2012, information is sparse. Without, I admit, digging too deeply, I drew a complete blank with S. J. Kealey, T. N. Murnane and Ms A. L. Lloyd-Carrick. The search for A. P. Woodbury produced only this which might, or might not, be him.
One more name is worthy of mention in connection with this project . . . wait for it! – Neil Kinnock!!! Who is billed as the “Ambassador”. I don’t wish to appear cynical, or unkind (you know me!) – but any project needing Kinnochio to lend it “considerable credibility” is surely dead in the water. Though give him his due, he can still recognise a gravy train approaching, even one running on very expensive tyres.
Someone else plugging the project, sort of, was that famous Danish rugby international, Sebastian Barrett, writing for Click on Wales. Though he seemed to quickly lose interest in highly-tuned engines and soon started plugging the Cardiff city state and the planned Cardiff Metro system. So irrelevant had the Ebbw Vale project become to him that at one point he referred to the Circuit of Wales as the “Circle of Wales”! (What’s happened to the Institute of Welsh Affairs, it’s become just another mouthpiece for Cardiff?)
The reason I started writing this piece is that there is mounting opposition to the project from a particularly obnoxious sub-species of colon. You know who I mean, they’re always on the ‘Welsh’ News, fleece jackets and English accents; ‘Oh, you can’t do that!’ ‘Oh no, we oppose this’. All of them working for bodies funded by taxpayers, charity collections, old ladies’ legacies, EU or other funding. Dictatorial bastards who want to keep Wales unspoilt by jobs or prosperity, preserved in aspic for the English middle classes to which most of them belong. First, in November, it was the Gwent Wildlife Trust. Then in March the Open Spaces Society chipped in. Last week it was Natural Resources Wales. It begins to look co-ordinated on the part of those who ‘love’ Wales but don’t give a toss about the Welsh.
Weighing it all up, my position is as follows. If this project can deliver what it promises, primarily investment and well-paid jobs for local people, then I support it. But I have grave reservations as to whether it will deliver. Mainly because I have little faith in those behind it. I smell another Valleywood. So strong is the aroma that I would have expected our wonderful Welsh Government to be asking many more questions about those behind a £250m project that will soon be asking for a hell of a lot of public funding. (Or does Kinnock’s involvement mean that this scheme gets nodded through?) I might also be worried by what appears to be the total lack of Welsh involvement. When does ‘outside investment’ become exploitation, colonialism? As for those objecting on what they allege to be environmental grounds . . . I’m sure you think you mean well, but shut up!
#Though on this page (shown right) of the Circuit of Wales website, in an undated piece, Peter Thomas is still listed as a director. He is also listed as CEO of Insight in Infrastructure, another new company (set up in September 2011) and also based in Cambridge. Though this company appears dormant, if not dead. Yet these are the people running a £250m racetrack project, with only one among them who appears to have any experience of motor sport, and no obvious assets. Doesn’t that fill you with confidence?