The re-design of Donington Park to bring it up to Formula 1 standard in time to host the British Grand Prix next year has been branded 'poor' and 'disappointingly weak' by a UK Government watchdog.
Having recently been granted local planning permission for its £100 million re-development, the Leicestershire venue – owned by Simon Gillett's company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) – has embarked upon a rapid and significant construction process, which will see the circuit altered to include a new loop towards the end of the lap, and a raft of new facilities built from grandstands to a revamped pit and paddock complex and improved media centre.
Despite the track changes having been masterminded by renowned F1 circuit architect Hermann Tilke, a report issued by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has roundly slated the project, claiming that 'the scheme presented reflects a poor understanding of the site and the opportunities it offers' and is a 'missed opportunity' when it could instead have provided an 'exceptional setting for the British Grand Prix'.
The panel underlined its concerns regarding the absence of a master plan or landscape strategy for the site, the long-term implications of welcoming F1 alongside other international race meetings, the impact the development could have on the surrounding area and region-at-large and the effect of increased traffic on nearby roads.
CABE is constituted of 40 experts and examines schemes of national importance, but the Derby Evening Telegraph
reports that planners are not obliged to follow the advice it dispenses.
'The design principles governing the approach to landscape and built form in this project are disappointingly weak,' the review read, 'and have resulted in a proposal which falls far short of what the local authority and the nation should be aspiring to in a modern Formula 1 venue.
'The material presented gave us little confidence that a bold architectural vision had been developed for this facility to showcase Britain's racing pedigree and create at Donington Park a race track of global standing to match Formula 1's most recent tracks in Bahrain, China and Malaysia designed by the same team working at Donington.
'We feel that, unless this is addressed, Donington Park will continue to suffer from piecemeal and poorly co-ordinated racetrack development.'
The scathing report – which also encouraged circuit planners to make use of the green setting in a more 'imaginative' manner' – is just one in a long line of criticisms to be levelled at DVLL's F1 plans since last July when the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone awarded Gillett a ten-year contract to host the blue riband
event on the UK motorsport calendar from 2010.