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Friday, 19 September 2014

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New homes dropped from Cumbria's M-Sport expansion plans

This is the vision for a ground-breaking centre that would put Cumbria in the fast lane of cutting-edge car creation.

M Sport graphic
How the car testing complex would look

Plans continue to be pursued for a multi-million pound scheme that could mean 100 new high-tech, well-paid jobs.

World championship-winning rally and racing business M-Sport wants to move into road cars and set up a research, development and testing operation unique to the UK at its county headquarters.

But, in a new development, the firm, headed by former British rally champion and leading Cumbrian entrepreneur Malcolm Wilson, has dropped plans to build 25 houses as part of the expansion after objections were raised by those living nearby.

M-Sport has previously scrapped a plan to put up a wind turbine as part of the project after opposition.

The firm has also made reassurances that the centre would not involve a race track operating.

However, plans to have a top-class hotel – possibly four or five-star – to meet the demands of visitors to the company’s expanded Dovenby Hall base, near Cockermouth, remain.

Consultation as part of a planning application lodged with Allerdale Council continues.

Carlisle-based Northern Developments is working on behalf of M-Sport to develop the project.

Alessandro Morganella, of Northern Developments, said: “We recognise there are some concerns within the community and are working hard with Allerdale Council to address these matters where practical.

“Contrary to some local suggestions, this development is not a race track nor a competitive circuit and it is essential we reassure people as best we can.

“M-Sport intends to withdraw the proposed residential development element of the proposals from its application while still seeking to improve aspects of road safety around the A594 outside Dovenby Hall for local people.”

The focus of the new centre is to expand into the general car market by building on M-Sport’s status as a leading global name on sporting circuits to forge new links and gain new work from manufacturers.

It will design and test new technology, including electric, hybrid and eco-friendly vehicles as well as improvements in vehicle and road safety.

Mr Morganella added: “The key objectives for M-Sport are safeguarding existing jobs and creation of around 100 new high-value engineering jobs connected to the world-class automotive design and development centre.

“This major investment in the area will provide a platform for expansion into the automotive market championing hybrid technology and sustainable motoring.”

Concerns about noise and over-development are among those raised by some neighbours about the scheme.

The Forestry Commission is also objecting on the grounds that some ancient semi-natural woodland would need to be removed.

Mr Wilson is certain the M-Sport Evaluation Centre can open new markets, working with manufacturers to tailor-design cars they might struggle to put on production lines. He believes no other centre in the UK will have the same facilities or know-how as that which his firm could provide if the expansion is granted planning permission.

Leading business lobbying group Invest in Cumbria is among those backing the proposals.

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