Location for Bristol Arena set to be decided

August 24 2018
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THE location of the long-awaited Bristol Arena is set to be decided at a Cabinet meeting on September 4, following mounting controversy about Mayor Marvin Rees’s handling of the debate.

As previously reported in Bishopston Voice, an extraordinary session of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Board convened in June to consider the Bristol Arena Value for Money reports that were compiled by KPMG. These reports revealed that a city centre arena in Temple Island could cost £65 million more than expected, and that an arena on Filton Airfield would take just three years to build and cost £80 million in comparison, according to YTL, the private developers who own the site. 

Following on from this, despite Mayor Rees stating in his blog on March 23 that the decision on the arena location had not been made, a recent freedom of information (FOI) request revealed that two days earlier, a representative of the council attended a meeting on transport for the Filton Arena and introduced himself as the man who “has been appointed by Bristol City Council to prepare a statement of support for the Brabazon Arena project proposed by YTL.”

In addition, during a chain of emails between Bristol City Council and YTL on April 26 2018, one stated: “We agreed that BCC would work with us on the sequential test… [which] will require the Temple Quay option to have been eliminated.” 

As a result of this coming to light, eyebrows have been raised over the Mayor’s next blog on the subject in June, where he discussed alternative uses for the Temple Island site. 

Furthermore, former Bristol Mayor George Ferguson has publicly criticised Mayor Rees’s handling of the arena debate, stating: “It has now become abundantly clear to me that Mayor Rees made up his mind to abandon the long awaited Bristol Arena last December, in spite of his election pledge to deliver it.”

With the latest developments in mind, we asked our local councillors to give their thoughts in advance of the arena’s location being decided.

Eleanor Combley, Green Party Councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down said: “All the evidence suggests that while the Mayor was telling the press, councillors and public that he would ‘make an unbiased decision with all the evidence’, he was, behind the scenes, using taxpayers’ money to employ someone to lobby for a private concern and essentially sabotaging the existing Council Arena project. I think we have to ask if the Mayor has a case to answer before the Council Values and Ethics committee.

“I really hope that I am wrong. I really hope that the Mayor is not predetermined, and is able to look at the evidence. I firmly believe that it should lead him to conclude, as did KPMG, 10 out of 11 members of Scrutiny, and a clear majority of all councillors, that a Temple Island Arena is deliverable, affordable, and the best option for the city.”

Tom Brook, Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down added: “I believe that Temple Island is the best location for an arena for Bristol. 

"Readers will recall that in the June edition of Bishopston Voice I was undecided, and to reach this decision I have taken in the evidence and approached it with an open mind. 

“In my view, Temple Island benefits from better and more sustainable transport links, it supports the city centre’s economy, and it is ready to build now. 

"Whilst the price is high it is not vastly different to other arenas and, thanks to this administration’s financial competence, the council has the financial resilience to be able to afford it.”

Anthony Negus, LibDem Councillor for Cotham Ward said: “An alternative ‘deal’– for that’s what it is – with a private developer to provide an arena at Filton, includes transferring £53m of public funds (intended for the city centre arena) to underwrite their required transport infrastructure costs. 

“In single-dimensional value-for-money terms there could be more profitable options from the Temple Meads site. But that blow to city confidence and the effect on city growth, including the new redevelopment of Broadmead will boost the prospects for an even larger Cribbs Causeway and YTL, the subsidised Filton site developers.”

Bishopston Voice will publish the outcome of the upcoming Cabinet meeting in our October edition.