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New London Grand Prix stars in docks regeneration proposal

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A Formula One motor racing track is included in plans being drawn up that would lead to the Royal Docks in east London being turned into a new waterfront destination. A London Grand Prix could come as early as 2026 in a best-case scenario, according to planners and consultants from Dar and LDN Collective, which are drafting the project.

The circuit they have mapped out would mean cars racing racing down waterfront along the Royal Albert and Royal Victoria docks before turning around the ExCel Centre. Floating grandstands would be capable of holding 95,000 spectators.

For the racing purists, the 5.9km track has been configured to “maximise overtaking” and the designers compare it to the Circuit de Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal.

Talks have already been held with Liberty Media, which has owned Formula One since 2017, and with the Greater London Authority, which is the freehold owner of most of the land in the area. “There’s a general level of support for the idea,” Max Farrell, chief executive of LDN Collective, said. “Obviously, there’s a lot to work through in terms of the practicalities and the planning, but if the political will is there, we believe that this is a very credible and deliverable proposition.”

For the docks to be transformed into a “waterfront destination”, Farrell and Dan Horner, Dar’s director of planning and urban design, expect that they will have to find private investors to back their vision. All in, the cost is estimated to be somewhere around £250 million.

“We’ve spoken to investors and we’ve put something to them that we think will be appetising to them,” Horner said. “We’ve done financial models which show a healthy rate of return [for investors].”

In order to make the redevelopment appealing to investors, Dar and LDN Collective are keen to build something that can be used for the rest of the year when the Formula One circus is not in town.

They have settled on turning the land into a hub for sports and recreation, with cycling tracks, running paths, playgrounds, padel tennis courts all to be included.

A number of bars, restaurants and hotels have been worked into the designs, sitting on a series of 28 movable modules. As it stands, there are 22 “revenue-generating units” planned.

“We identified a need in London for more leisure and entertainment destinations,” Horner said. “The Royal Docks is just a perfect location. We’re looking at this as a year-round, family-focused leisure and entertainment destination. Yes Formula One is part of the offering, but we want to create a destination for the other 50 weeks of the year.”

Although discussions with certain key stakeholders and potential investors have been held, the plans are still at a relatively early stage. If all goes smoothly, Dar and LDN believe that they could submit their planning application within the next 12 months.

“Once we have planning consent, with a fair wind we can build this within 24 months,” Farrell said. “So really, I think there’s a best-case scenario of having a London Grand Prix here in August 2026. If everyone gets behind it, that would be feasible.”