Plan for £29m racing circuit in Northern Ireland gets the green light
Ambitious plans to transform wasteland in Co Tyrone into a world-class motorsport facility have officially been given the green light.
The proposals centre on a long-abandoned 57-acre site near Coalisland, formerly known as the clay pits, and could create 500 jobs.
Those behind the Lake Torrent project want to turn the site into an international racetrack.
In time they hope to host prestigious events such as the World Superbike Championship and British Touring Car Championship - attracting up to 30,000 spectators.
The exciting development has now received planning permission from Mid-Ulster District Council.
The track is expected to be a 3.59km circuit, offering 12 turns and a mix of technical and high speed sequences.
Also included in the plans are pit garages, a spectator gallery, hospitality facilities and new access and public link roads.
Speaking after the application was approved, Cathal Mallaghan, the chair of the planning committee, said it was a significant investment for the area.
"Lake Torrent is a hugely impressive and ambitious proposal which will transform a substantial and unused area of depleted clay pits into a world-class motorsport centre," he said.
"The proposal represents an initial £29m investment which will create 500 jobs during construction, and 40 full-time positions on an ongoing basis.
"It is anticipated there will be over 500 posts on race days which will provide a significant boost to the local economy of Coalisland, and also be a substantial driver for increasing the number of visitors coming to Mid-Ulster."
The Lake Torrent site has been derelict for years since its coal and clay reserves were exhausted more than a decade ago.
What was once a thriving mining and industrial location, providing a major source of local employment for almost 150 years, is now essentially a wasteland.
In recent times the two clay extraction pits have been filled by natural springs and precipitation, forming two large lakes.
The project is the brainchild of Manna Developments, a private development company. The first phase of works, which includes the race circuit, community facilities, and a new ring road, is due to be completed in 2018.
At the same council meeting on Tuesday night, plans were also approved for new Jaguar and Land Rover showrooms for Donnelly Brothers in Dungannon.