Newmarket set for all-weather racing

AMBITIOUS plans for a new all-weather track at the country's most famous racecourse look set to be approved by councillors next week.If Forest Heath District Council give the go ahead for the scheme at Newmarket it will be a major boost to the town which is attracting £75m in investment over the coming years in housing, leisure and retail developments.

AMBITIOUS plans for a new all-weather track at the country's most famous racecourse look set to be approved by councillors next week.

If Forest Heath District Council give the go ahead for the scheme at Newmarket it will be a major boost to the town which is attracting £75m in investment over the coming years in housing, leisure and retail developments.

Mayor Robin Millar, who sits on Newmarket Town Council, said: “There is project after project after project happening in Newmarket and this is a very exciting time.

“The town is at the geographical heart of East Anglia and I feel it is a hub for the region. In the past, we have avoided the attention given to Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds, for example, but now we are really coming into our own.


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“A lot of residents are attached to the racing industry in some way and, while it is important we do not lose that uniqueness, I think it is also sensible for us to strengthen our second and third strings of business.

“Newmarket is already a fabulous town where people like to live and work, and it is only going to get better.”

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Officials at Newmarket said the scheme, which is earmarked for the Rowley Mile Racecourse, represents the start of a business boom for the town.

The all-weather track, which will run over a one mile and two furlong distance alongside the existing flat course at Hamilton Road, could be open for fixtures next winter should everything run to plan.

Bosses are hopeful the facility will boost the local economy by drawing custom to Suffolk throughout the year, bringing Newmarket in line with competitors at Wolverhampton, Lingfield Park and Southwell.

Michael Prosser, clerk of the course, said: “This is a major investment, and the socio-economic benefits are fairly obvious. The very nature of turf flat racing means Newmarket becomes a much quieter town from October onwards, as top international jockeys and stable lads all move over to Dubai.

“We are hoping the all-weather track will allow us to stage at least two fixtures a week during the winter months.

“This will not just be a surface for horseracing, but will be used as an exercise gallop as well. The all-weather track will also help relieve wear on the Rowley Mile course, and we may be able to consider staging more fixtures in the autumn as a result.”

The racing season in Newmarket currently runs bewteen April and early November, with 37 meetings scheduled for 2004.

The all-weather track, which will utilise the existing £16m Millennium Grandstand at the Rowley Mile Racecourse, will increase this number, with bosses hoping extra meetings will be pencilled in for next winter if planning permission for the project is granted next week.

“If we get everything approved in time, we want to be considered by the British Horseracing Board for fixtures in 2005, which is a critical issue for us,” added Mr Prosser. “This time next year we should be staging all weather fixtures.

“National Hunt racing is disseminated given any sort of wintry conditions, as there are currently only three all-weather tracks in the country.

“Races have often been oversubscribed at other all-weather tracks because of their popularity, so we are very excited about this project.”

The cost of the project has yet to be revealed.

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