NEWCASTLE RACECOURSE’S hopes of building a new all-weather track have moved a major step closer after the planning committee of Newcastle City Council voted to approve the first stage of the venue’s plans.

Newcastle and Catterick are currently battling for the right to stage all-weather racing in the North-East, with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) only expected to give the go-ahead for one of the venues to host all-weather fixtures.

Yesterday’s planning decision does not mean the BHA will choose Newcastle, but it gives the Arena Racing Company-owned venue a significant advantage when they look to lobby the authorities for a place on the fixture list.

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Plans have been approved for a new floodlit all-weather track, enhanced racing facilities and a glazed, tiered restaurant. As well as receiving council approval, the scheme also has the backing of the North-East LEP and North-East Chamber of Commerce.

A second application, which will include a small number of family homes, is anticipated shortly, and provided that is also approved, construction could begin before the end of the year. However, that will only happen if the BHA approves the hosting of fixtures in the 2015 season.

Tony Kelly, managing director of ARC, said: “We welcome the Council’s approval of our application to convert part of Newcastle Racecourse into a floodlit all-weather venue. I would like to thank Newcastle City Council for the very supportive and pragmatic approach they have taken to this development, including the conditions attached to the approval which enable the investment to proceed.”

David Williamson, executive director at Newcastle Racecourse, added: “This is an important first step towards delivering this ambitious and prestigious project for Newcastle. The racing facilities backed by councillors today would put our city firmly on the global stage, attracting new visitors and creating local jobs.

“It has always been our intention to deliver high-quality racing facilities as part of a wider plan to secure a bright future for High Gosforth Park Estate, including action to secure valuable heritage assets, protect wildlife and improve public access.

“These benefits will all be included in a further application, which will also include a small number of family homes within the Estate. If approved, this second application will then unlock the new investment which the council has backed today.

“The upgraded racing facilities approved by the council would attract over 25,000 visitors, spending at least £1m each year. The construction will see in the region of 250 temporary jobs created and a further 365 indirect jobs in the supply chain, with 2,500 hours of new work created in hospitality services each year thereafter.”