Belfast Telegraph

Brakes on plans for £30m Northern Ireland race track as site up for sale

Project in doubt as receivers step in to place area on the market

Islandmagee businessman David Henderson
Islandmagee businessman David Henderson
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

The red flag appears to have been flown on plans for a £30m world class motor racing circuit in Co Tyrone after the entire site was placed on the market by receivers.

The 180-acre Lake Torrent site near Coalisland had been the focus of a bid to create a new World Superbike Championship circuit in Northern Ireland.

The initial construction phase was to generate work for 700 people, with 25 permanent jobs and another 50 part-time roles based at the racing hub.

But the future of the major sport and tourism project has been in doubt since the appointment of receivers in October 2018.

Manna Developments' proposal was granted planning approval by Mid Ulster District Council in August 2017, but subject to a number of conditions.

The most problematic condition for the developer surrounds a coal mine risk assessment (CMRA) for the 70-plus abandoned shafts dating back to the historic coal and fire clay mining activities at the site.

Administrators from Belfast-based restructuring firm Keenan CF were appointed by Route Finance Ltd on October 12, 2018. It’s understood that the lender, part of a London-based equity investment group, provided the funds for the original purchase of the Co Tyrone site, believed to have been bought for around £750,000.

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It’s thought that another third party had been lined up by Manna Developments to fund the race track development itself.

In October, Manna, which is owned by Islandmagee businessman David Henderson, said “one particular planning issue” had implications for the conditions of its loan agreement. He said his firm’s funding partner was aware of the issues, including the appointment of a receiver, but remained committed to making the funds available. However, the commitment is tied to planning issues being resolved.

It’s understood Mr Henderson remains in contact with the receivers.

The Geological Survey NI (GSNI), part of the Department for the Economy,  said it met with a geotechnical firm appointed by Manna Developments on December 14. GSNI said that it has not received an update since, and is not aware that the CMRA condition for planning approval has been met.

Commercial property firm O’Connor Kennedy Turtle has been appointed to market the sale of the site, which will go to the highest bidder.

 In a statement yesterday, Keenan CF said: “The sale of this site represents a unique opportunity to own an extensive land holding in Coalisland and work with Mid Ulster District Council and other key stakeholders to regenerate the land for the benefit of the local economy.”

Belfast Telegraph