Decision due on racetrack opening

A DECISION about the opening of the new £50million racecourse at Great Leighs could be made within the next 24 hours, it was revealed last night.An inspection was carried out at the site near Braintree yesterday by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority Inspectorate (HRAI).

By Annie Davidson

THE new £50million racecourse at Great Leighs could open for its first races by August, it was revealed last night.

An inspection was carried out at the site near Braintree yesterday by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority Inspectorate (HRAI).

Spokeswoman for the racecourse, Pippa Cuckson, said following the visit it was estimated that the racecourse could be in use by August 16.

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The new course has been hit with delays which have seen its opening dates changed several times over the last few months.

It was originally due to open in October last year, then in February and most recently at the end of March but this deadline was also missed.

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Ms Cuckson said yesterday: “There is a rather odd system for putting a new racecourse into the calendar - we have to race when we are told to, not when we want to.

“We have to commit to certain dates 18 months hence and before it is built.

“Because of the hold-ups there has been a rolling schedule where when it is not ready we hand back the racing dates in two monthly cycles.

“We didn't make March, the date was put back to the summer.”

She said following the inspection the date of August 16 was given for a possible first race.

Among the areas inspected were a new paddock, a 50-metre weighing room, stables, and an owners' and trainers' lounge.

The layout of the race course was revised after delays over legal agreements for a new bypass.

John Holmes, chairman of Great Leighs race track, said: “The re-invention was a massive headache but we were determined to start racing as we don't want to test the industry's patience much longer.

“Last summer we worked round the clock with our local planning authority to create Plan B, only to be faced with trying to build it during the wettest winter on record.

“We have started to catch up with this dry spell but are determined not to cut corners, while appreciating we are under pressure to race.

“We hope our attention to detail for start-up will enthuse visitors about what is yet to come.”

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