Nick Smith MP today gave a statement at the public inquiry into the use of common land for the Circuit of Wales development. The complete transcript is below.
As the Member of Parliament of Blaenau Gwent for the past five years, I support the Circuit of Wales wholeheartedly.
I want to see this area thrive.
I want to see real growth, real jobs and a real boost for the economy here.
I believe the Circuit of Wales can give us a real chance to make that happen.
But I’m not just interested as the MP for Blaenau Gwent.
I spent my teenage years living on the Waundeg estate in Tredegar, which lies to the west of the development.
There was nothing else to do growing up but walk all over the valley.
Now as an avid walker I take every chance I get to enjoy the beauty of this borough.
I’m very aware of the land we have here.
The land is both marshy and scrappy and local residents tell me it’s neither well-travelled or well grazed.
I’m also aware of the lack of opportunities here.
The deprivation I knew growing up that has only deepened as we lost our industrial foundations.
I speak to constituents all the time about the Circuit of Wales.
On the doorstep.
In street and supermarket surgeries.
Through e-mail and letter.
The refrain is always the same. We need the Circuit of Wales.
I’m a person who has been supporting big projects that will make a difference such as electrification of the valleys railways.
I have also supported projects for young people to give them a start such as the Blaenau Gwent Work Experience programme,
With that in mind, the case for the circuit is compelling.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to one of the most deprived areas in the UK.
Thousands of estimated jobs created.
Tourism injecting more money every year into our surrounding towns.
These facts shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
I have heard the arguments that a different, usually undefined, solution could be found.
But would any other development offer so much change and potential for change?
For those worried about the Brecon Beacons and the beautiful land we have, it can be easy to forget we already have problems with access.
The Heads of the Valleys, whose improvements are a vital move to getting Blaenau Gwent moving, unfortunately act as a barrier.
The Circuit of Wales has suggested part of the development could include an access point and facilities for visitors wanting to enter the park.
I think the Brecon Beacons National Park should do more to support valleys communities access from the south side.
Far from destroying, this development could actually enhance access to an area that has received too little love for too long.
In addition, as an MP I have campaigned avidly on the issues of public health and wellbeing.
We have a poor track record in Blaenau Gwent, one of the worst in the UK.
An active lifestyle is important in tackling chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
This proposal could go a long way to help tackle these big issues.
In my dealings with the chief objectors to this plan, the Gwent Wildlife Trust, I have tried to listen to their arguments against.
I have tried to get them to work with the developers to find a solution, but they have shown too little interest in doing so.
They wouldn’t even tell me the number of members they have in Blaenau Gwent.
It is hard to evenly balance that against the massive groundswell of support from the Blaenau Gwent public.
In closing, I believe as the Member of Parliament and a product of Blaenau Gwent that the Circuit of Wales must be given every chance to succeed.
To block it now over a land dispute would be denying the area the chance to heal it has needed for decades.
I would argue blocking it could damage Blaenau Gwent for years to come.