‘Let’s look again at floodlight options’

February 27 2015

GIANT permanent floodlights will not be installed at the Bristol county cricket ground in Bishopston this year.

GIANT permanent floodlights will not be installed at the Bristol county cricket ground in Bishopston this year.

Councillors are unwilling to give the go-ahead for the lights until they are sure that all ideas for reducing the impact on neighbours and the skyline have been fully explored.

Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, which needs the lights so it can stage top international matches, is disappointed at the delay but says it will do all it can to prove it has thoroughly investigated all the options.

The club had hoped that Bristol City Council's development committee, meeting on February 4, would follow the advice of planning officers and approve the six 45-metre floodlights on fixed masts.

But the scheme was rejected 5 to 4 on the casting vote of committee chairman Councillor Peter Abraham. Members said they would reconsider when they had more information about possible alternatives including removable or retractable lights. They said they also wanted to visit the ground in Nevil Road before making a decision.

Bishopston Voice understands that the matter will go back to the committee at the end of April. In the meantime, the cricket club will hold further discussions with planning officers and neighbours.

Will Brown, chief executive of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, said last week: “The real positive to take from the committee was that councillors – and even those speaking against – wanted the club to host international matches and therefore have floodlights. We need the lights to host the four 2019 World Cup matches we have been awarded, which otherwise will be lost from Bristol.

“We don’t want to lose any more time, as we are in critical discussions with the England and Wales Cricket Board over matches in the 2020-2022 period and any further delays weaken our position. I believe that everyone present at the committee wanted to bring international sport to Bristol, so let’s work together to make sure that happens.”

The residents' group Howzat, which has been working for some years to monitor the impact of development at the cricket club, said it was glad councillors had listened to opponents and deferred their decision.

In a statement, the group said: “Among concerns expressed in over 175 objections were: the permanent, year-round, daytime visual impact of the structures, four times the height of a house, looming over local streets, spaces and back gardens; the amount of light pollution when they are used, far in excess even of guidelines set by cricket's governing body, the ECB; and the noise, traffic congestion and disturbance caused by games going on until as late as 11pm.

“HowZat are looking forward to working with the club's chief executive Will Brown over the next two months to reach a solution which they can support.”

Local councillor Tim Malnick told the Voice he backed the club's wish to stay in Bishopston and host international cricket but recognised residents' concerns.

“We support the committee’s decision to defer until they are satisfied that every avenue has been properly explored,” he said.

Several residents spoke out at the meeting, expressing their suspicions that the club was aiming for the cheapest option and had not provided enough information about possible alternatives – despite three rounds of public consultation. They urged strict conditions for whatever lighting was eventually agreed, to minimise the impact on neighbours.

The committee heard that the council's own city design group felt that the proposal would cause “substantial harm” to the setting of the listed Muller orphanages on Ashley Down.

Mr Brown told councillors that the International Cricket Council had recently ruled that permanent floodlights were required to host international matches. The lights would be used a maximum of 15 times a year, and solely for cricket.

He estimated that each international match would be worth about a million pounds to the local economy. Martin Hunt, secretary of Gloucester Road Traders' Assocation , said he strongly supported the club's plans.

Councillor Abraham said he needed “to be convinced that such an intrusion could be justified”.

* The club has invited anyone who would like further information to contact its community relations team on 0800 0731047.