PLANS for the first phase of a £5 million revamp of York Racecourse have been handed in.

The project, scheduled to take place in stages, is designed to improve facilities for racegoers, horses and jockeys.

The venue’s bosses say the scheme is necessary to ensure the city “continues to attract some of the world’s best racing”.

A planning application for the first section of work at the northern end of the course has been submitted to City of York Council. A decision on whether it can go ahead could be made next month.

The plan involves moving the pre-parade ring, demolishing a perimeter wall and creating new saddling boxes and a new washdown area for horses. The aim is to carry out the work between the end of this year’s racing season and the start of the 2014 calendar.

Future phases of the redevelopment will include a new weigh-in building, with the existing facilities for weighing horses being converted into space for racegoers, possibly including a new restaurant.

Improvements would also be carried out to the listed John Carr Building and paddock area, while the track’s Moet Champagne Building would be revamped.

The Racecourse says gaining permission for the initial stage of the project would pave the way for further planning applications and allow more time to draw up detailed proposals for the next phases.

A statement to the council by Phelan Architects, who have designed the scheme, reads: “To ensure York remains one of the country’s best and most regarded racecourses, it is essential it continues to evolve and develop.”

“In particular, it is important the equine facilities on offer meet the expectations and requirements of the owners, trainers and jockeys of the world’s highest-rated thoroughbreds, so they continue to choose to race at York.”

The firm said the Racecourse’s paddock area was currently “less than ideal” because of congestion among horses and “a large number of people milling around a confined space”.

It said there had been no major accidents stemming from spectators being near the paddock, but there had been “several near- misses” and this needed to be addressed.

The application said moving the pre-parade ring would ultimately create more space for the Racecourse’s champagne lawns and allow the northern entrance, on to Knavesmire Road, to be improved and new facilities for owners and trainers to be built.