EXCLUSIVE: ‘Reckless developments’ not needed at Memorial Stadium

August 03 2015

THE Memorial Stadium needs formal protection from “reckless” developments.

THE Memorial Stadium needs formal protection from “reckless” developments.

This is what campaign group TRASH told Bishopston Voice in the wake of Sainsbury's winning its case to terminate its contract with Bristol Rovers.

The club plans to appeal against the High Court decision, but TRASH (Traders and residents against Sainsbury's Horfield) says that it wants to help Rovers find a way to preserve the stadium – which was built to commemorate the fallen rugby players of the First and Second World Wars – and redevelop the ground to make it more “fit for purpose”.

The supermarket won its High Court battle against Rovers last month, when judge Mrs Justice Proudman found that Sainsbury's had acted lawfully in terminating its contract with the club in November 2014.

Rovers needed to sell the ground to Sainsbury's in order to fund a 21,000-seater stadium in Frenchay. The supermarket agreed to buy the ground for £30 million, and lease it back to the club for a small fee until the new stadium had been built.

A TRASH spokesman exclusively told Bishopston Voice: “Perhaps at last, the positives of the Memorial Ground will be recognised, and like our high streets, it will enjoy a renaissance.

“The sports ground could be modernised, given its war memorial status and residential setting, to make a stadium fit for Rovers’ purpose.

“At this time of uncertainty for the Memorial Ground, it is hoped that [Bristol City] council will ensure that it is protected for sport or recreational activity, in the manner that it has been in years past.

“Only such protection will ensure it is safe from reckless redevelopment.”

It was also heard in court that Sainsbury's expressed a desire to terminate the contract in the summer of 2013 – eight months before TRASH pursued a judicial review, which questioned the council's decision to give the supermarket planning permission.

The campaign group's spokesman added: “Should the council have been spending public money to defend the permission [they granted to Sainsbury's] when [the supermarket] was no longer interested and had absented itself from the judicial review proceedings?”

The club says that, despite the disappointment, it is still committed to building a new stadium.

A Rovers spokesman said: “While we note the legal basis for the decision, the club is likely to pursue an appeal against the judgement and considers that it has strong legal grounds for doing so.

“We consider that Sainsbury’s acted in bad faith and did their utmost to stall the purchase at every possible juncture.

“Bristol Rovers is a fantastic football club, with a proud tradition and a fan-base envied by dozens of clubs higher up the football league, and which deserves a home that is fit-for-purpose.

“The club will now consider all options before making a decision on the next step.”

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: “The High Court found in our favour, agreeing that the conditional contract between Sainsbury’s and Bristol Rovers lawfully terminated in November 2014. The judge made no findings of Sainsbury’s acting in bad faith with the club.

“We understand that this is a sensitive issue locally and that there will also be disappointment as a result of the court’s decision today.

“We will continue to work with the local community via our existing Bristol stores which employ over 800 people, and are extremely popular with customers.”