In July 2015, The Route – Finance approved a £875,000 loan for the purchase of a former brick clay pit site in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, which extends to nearly 200 acres and borders the town of Coalisland.
David Henderson of Manna Developments received the funding from The Route investors, which he will use to transform the site from its current state of a disused coal mine into a motorsports racetrack for the purposes of motorcycle road racing. Motorcycle racing is very popular in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Grand Prix, known as the ‘world’s fastest road race’ that takes place on the Dundrod Circuit near Belfast, attracts racers from around the globe, and is considered to be on a par with the world famous Isle of Man TT race.
The track itself will have the ability to offer one large circuit approaching 2.5 miles, or a number of smaller ones of less than one mile that can operate at the same time, dependent upon the needs of the motorsport discipline. Ultimately the circuit will service everything from local club status to international events for some sports.
The Coalisland Site
The site had remained derelict for many years since its coal and clay reserves were exhausted more than a decade ago. What had been a thriving mining and industrial location, with related businesses being a major employer for the area for approaching 150 years, was now essentially a wasteland.
Over the recent years of inactivity, the two clay extraction pits had been filled by natural springs and precipitation, forming two large lakes, which, despite their considerable depth, had been attracting children onto the site with obvious attendant risks.
In 2014, David Henderson was introduced to the site by the local district council. Coming from a background as a commercial property developer, Henderson had a vision for the land, which could combine his professional expertise with his interest in motorcycle road racing, and unlock industrial, tourism and leisure employment opportunities on a long-term basis for the area.
His plan is to first fill the two lakes with various types of clean landfill (including peat, topsoil and a selection of green aggregates). The lakes, which are in places more than 30 metres deep, will be filled to reduce this to some 3 metres, creating a much safer, but still striking and scenic centre-point.
With the pits filled,a motorcycle race track and its associated facilities are tobe built,combining high speeds with modern safety methods to produce a centre of excellence for motorsport.
In addition, 2.5 acres of the site shall be zoned off for residential housing, on which at least 30 new houses shall be constructed.
The infrastructure supporting the motorsport complex will be specifically designed to encourage full utilisation of the site and to facilitate non-motorsports events ranging from concerts, arts & cultural events, to community markets, shows and other gatherings.
Other elements will include:
- A hotel
- Industrial units
- Motoring related retail
- Health centre, which will service the circuit and local community
- An amateur theatre
- Motorcycle/car museum/exhibitions venue
- Industrial interpretation of the town’s industrial heritage
- Playing fields
- A boating and fishing lake
- Catering outlets
- Camp-site/self catering accomodation
David Henderson, Managing Director at Manna Developments said: “Our experience of the banking world in Northern Ireland was that following the downturn, it is risk averse, lacking in imagination and inclined to delay decisions unless backed up with a report from a big four accountancy practice. This is particularly true for the construction industry.
“Even then our contact with other businesses suggests that having progressed through the bureaucratic mire, the security also being requested reflects unrealistically high levels of coverage, which in itself is a constraint.
Comparatively, the approach of The Route – Finance was refreshing. The members of our team have been through governmental and banking appraisal processes from both sides of the fence, but found The Route to be commercial and capable of seeing the big picture.
“That is not to say that The Route – Finance ’s due diligence process was not thorough, but having established the strong credentials of our project, the time spent afterwards was crossing Ts and dotting Is, which in itself made us re-examine some of the more specific aspects of the project.
“We had one point of contact, which again we found to be a plus, and overall we consider that there are many opportunities in Northern Ireland for The Route – Finance to displace the conventional funders.”