Vroom, Vroom – The Next Gravy Train?

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 Ebbw Valethe 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.Neil and Glenys

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 ourCarrick 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?

14 thoughts on “Vroom, Vroom – The Next Gravy Train?

  1. Looks more like a go-kart track than a racing circuit – no straights, no gradient changes, utterly boring. The location has too much rain, too close to housing ……. looks more like an excuse to pitch for the taxpayers money. High paid jobs? They’re having a laugh.

    1. Anonymous

      There is a Go cart track attached- Are you looking at the wrong image? The Circuit of Wales design has an 80m+ height change over its length and everyone who knows anything about racing loves the design. Lots of camber, gradient changes and corners will produce exciting racing. The gradient change is more than any other UK Grand one circuit. During the months that we go racing April-October there is less rainfall in Ebbw Vale than at Silverstone.

  2. Tarian

    This has been rumbling on for a while and can only be described as weird. Nobody seems to be able to make any sense of it. There have been frequent stories in the Gwent Gazette making outlandish promises of thousands of jobs – literally ten thousand jobs according to one article! A case of the bigger the lie the more convincing it is? On the other hand there have been moves to hire local contractors for the work and the area could certainly do with more jobs even if they are part time or seasonal.

    I know nothing about motor sports but the location seems odd – the proposed site is above the town on open mountain and moor – the weather is atrocious up there between November and March and there is fair bit of rain over the rest of the year. There are also high winds throughout the year. It’s not exactly Barcelona.

  3. daffy2012

    There was an interview with a Welsh guy who was very much into track racing. He said that other tracks in the UK were struggling; ones which were close to large population centers. He couldn’t see this one succeeding. I’ll see if I can find his comments. Personally, I just don’t know but the involvement of Kinnock and an ex-banker makes me feel uneasy.

    1. Jac

      As he says, the circuit pays the race organiser or franchise-holder to bring an event to the circuit. If this is currently proving too expensive for Silverstone and Brand’s Hatch, then how the hell will Ebbw Vale do it? The only way I can see it happening is if the Welsh Governmenment comes up with the money, again and again. Maybe this is what those behind the project are hoping.

    1. Jac

      We seem to have got to the stage where nobody is taking this project seriously, nobody is really questioning its viability, with the result that those behind it think they can pluck figures out of thin air.

  4. easternlightening

    Hi, Stumbled onto your blog whilst looking into the new circuit of Wales. I think you have hit the nail an almighty whack on the head! Your research ( far better than mine, although I did find a freedom of information request from the Welsh assembly that refused to say how much money the Welsh assembly is going to put into this venture….mmmmm…. !) confirms much about what I suspect.
    People who don`t know much about motorsport tend to think it is awash with cash. They look at Silverstone GP with a huge crowd, each shelling out over a hundred quid and think “Wow, loads of money!” It is a load of money, but since Silverstone has to pay for the F1 bosses for the privilege of allowing 26 multi millionaires to drive around for 90 minutes, there is not a lot left when the crowds have departed and all that is left is litter and empty grandstands! GP`s are like the Olympics. They cost money and that money comes from the taxpayer at the vast majority of these events. ( This is why they are so keen for new circuits to join in, ie Dubai, India et al, the governments pay for these events).
    This smacks so much of the infamous Donington Park GP bid. It all ends with a lot of people out of pocket and the reputation of motorsport once again dragged through the mire. I am a huge motorsport fan, but I ( and most of my friends who are into motorsport ) snorted loudly when we heard the news about Donington. Unfortunately we all have a similar view on the new circuit of Wales.
    I hope I am wrong. I would gladly pay to watch a BTCC or a BSB round at the circuit. I would wear a t-shirt with the slogan “I was wrong!” around the place quite gladly. I will not be ordering the t shirt just yet I think…….

  5. keith

    I reckon Michael Carrick must have been tuaght by John Delorean, and in some ways you have to admire him, he could gertainly sell ice to eskimo’s, but ultimately the local people are being taken for a ride and will get hurt by yet another con man _anker banker, and the welsh assembly are yet again demonstrating their business prowess,i.e the film studios, cardiff airport, wales rally gb and now this, how much more of our money are they going to waste which should be put into schools and hospitals etc, and leave business to business people

  6. keith

    Just been going through Carricks Bullshit again and he states that 1.35 million days per year are spent by the british public at motorsport events and he reckons he is going to get 750,000 visitors, so at a stroke he has cornered over half the uk’s total motorsport market, perhaps we will even see pigs flying over the circuit, for FF’s sake wake up you politicians, councillors and dreamers

  7. Anonymous

    Tempoary part time work ? What will us valley boyos do with all that coin the mind boggles ?carrick kin nock on u bikes . Dai will 16/11/15

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