A £25 million testing centre at Cumbria’s M-Sport complex is on track to be open next autumn.

Northern Developments (Cumbria) Ltd has completed the first phase of the project at Dovenby Hall, near Cockermouth, and said it was on target for next year.

The evaluation centre is a technical facility which M-Sport hopes will help it to move into the wider automotive sector and attract mainstream motor manufacturers looking for a cutting-edge facility to design and test new technology.

It is hoped the centre will create around 100 jobs and it was given £1.3 million from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership earlier this year.

The first phase of work for Northern Developments, which is based in Carlisle, was the design and construction of a 2.5km test track, which included moving 200,000 tonnes of earth.

Work began on the 111,000sq ft production facility in May and Northern Developments said the structural steelwork and roofing was virtually completed and all external precast concrete walls installed.

Eddie Ward, commercial manager for Northern, said: “This project has been on the drawing board with us since 2010.

“It is a significant and complex design and build of which we’re very proud; we are pleased to finally see it on site, taking shape so quickly.”

Northern, which managed the construction of M-Sport’s existing facility in 1999, said the new building will more than double the size of M-Sport’s production facilities.

Malcolm Wilson OBE, managing director of M-Sport, said “It’s always been important for me to keep

the business in Cumbria, and with the help of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, we’re seeing the growth of more and more businesses in our region.

“The M-Sport Evaluation Centre will provide a unique centre of engineering excellence – allowing world leaders in automotive technology to follow their concepts from design and development, right through to production.

“Our region is fast becoming a great place for business, and we’re proud to be a part of that.”

It will be the only one of its kind in the UK, creating 100 jobs, and Cumbria LEP says the overall investment impact in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) to Cumbria is estimated at £24.4m by December 2025.

M-Sport’s plans for the aspiring centre of excellence include expanding its motor-sport design, as well as development in areas such as electric and battery car technologies and composite parts production – providing the company with the ability to test and build cars of the future.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership’s investment in the project, it said, makes sure that 10,000 sq ft of the centre will be available for hire by third parties for research and development and 10,300 sq ft will be available for hire on a ‘shared use’ basis.