Setback for Snetterton racetrack expansion plans

Adam GrettonHopes of a multi-million pound fuel injection to Norfolk's economy received a setback after it emerged that the expansion of Snetterton Circuit had been put 'on ice'.Adam Gretton

Hopes of a multi-million-pound fuel injection to Norfolk's economy received a setback after it

emerged that the expansion of Snetterton Circuit had been put "on ice".

Ambitious plans to turn the county's premier motor racing circuit into a world-class venue were approved 18 months ago, which could create 500 jobs at a new business park and hotel off the A11.

But the owner of the race track last night dashed hopes of an imminent start date for the �10m scheme after the development was hit by the global economic downturn.

Jonathan Palmer, chief executive of MotorSport Vision (MSV), told the EDP he was not confident of putting more money into Snetterton Circuit and its expansion had taken a "backward step".

The former F1 driver, who owns four other British race tracks, added that a condition set by Breckland Council to build a "costly" �200,000 earth bund to the east of the Snetterton site to overcome noise issues had also stalled the upgrade plans.

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"It is a massive blow to the economics of the circuit and it makes us nervous about the level of investment we had hoped to put into Snetterton. The whole development is on ice at the moment.

"At the moment, we are fairly downbeat, but hopefully in a year or two the combination of the economy picking up and business demand picking up will make me feel more encouraged to invest in the circuit," he said.

Mr Palmer, whose company bought Snetterton Circuit in 2004, said his enthusiasm for the development of the Norfolk race track had "slumped" and he was more focused on improving his other motorsport venues.

The future of the advanced engineering and motorsport industry along the A11 corridor was looking healthy in September 2008 when the planning application was approved by Breckland councillors.

An extension to the Snetterton track would allow officials to host everything apart from F1 cars and the business park development would create a 50-bedroom hotel, conference centre, racing school, and retail showrooms, offices, industrial units and race team units.

But Mr Palmer said the recession and housebuilding slump had resulted in the noise bund - which is being built - costing more than MSV had hoped.

He added that further investment in Snetterton represented a "substantial risk" in the current climate, but the dualling of the A11 would help boost its prospects.

"I need a lot more confidence in the economy as a whole and more confidence in the local support of Snetterton and council support to really consider further investment," he said.

William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council, yesterday said the Snetterton investment would benefit the whole A11 corridor, but the council could not give grants to private companies.

"The economy has gone somewhere we did not expect and Mr Palmer has to concentrate on his core business. Hopefully, the funding will be there in the future," he said.