Dismay as Mayor drops plan for arena at Temple Island

October 02 2018
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THE decision to drop plans for a long-awaited Bristol Arena on Temple Island in central Bristol has disappointed local councillors.

by Keri Beckingham

It came at a council cabinet meeting on September 4, after mounting controversy about Mayor Marvin Rees’s handling of the debate.

Announcing his decision, Mayor Rees said: “The [value for money] report clearly told me that an alternative use was far better. The arena brought fewer jobs and most jobs in arenas around the country are temporary and minimum wage.

"A mixed-use site, including a conference centre would blow away the arena for jobs and create a stronger tax base and economic output for the city."

A key site being considered as an alternative location for the arena is Filton Airfield. 

Following the announcement at the cabinet meeting, a group of five councillors, among them Stoke Bishop’s, John Goulandris, ‘called in’ the decision to scrap plans for a city centre arena, demanding that Marvin Rees’s decision be looked at again. 

However, the challenge to the Temple Island decision was rejected at the scrutiny meeting on September 20 by a solid Labour vote, despite 18 separate grounds being listed focusing on the council’s local plan, the openness of the decision and whether other offers from investors were considered.

Councillor Anthony Negus, leader of the Lib Dem group,  said: “We put our case well but it was not taken up. There is a risk element of operators suing us for loss of costs and operational profits they will not now be achieving. We seriously believe that the decision is a mistake.”

Henleaze and Westbury councillor Geoff Gollop is disappointed by the decision and said: “I remain of the view that the only realistic location for the arena is the Temple Meads site. For the arena to be accessible to all it needs to be in the centre of the City. The experts indicate that a central location will mean a majority of users will use public transport. The Filton venue will have limited public transport and will mean a large increase in road traffic, much of which will pass through Westbury and Henleaze, and some of which will park on our already overwhelmed streets.

“My added concern is that a Filton site will see new shops restaurants and jobs going to Cribbs Causeway and will see the loss of jobs in central Bristol."

Steve Smith, Conservative Councillor for Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze,  added: “I voted with 48 other councillors and Marvin Rees that the best site for our arena is Arena Island, and I stand by that. 

"After years of delays and waste, we are finally at a point where we have an affordable, fully financed project with a building contractor and operator signed up and full planning permission granted.”

Meanwhile, hope has returned for a city centre venue as global arena specialists Oakview Group, who have links with music mogul Harvey Goldsmith, have declared an interest in building an arena in the St Philip’s Marsh area of the city.