Archive for November, 2009

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Bristol World Cup Bid Signed By Council Leaders

November 25, 2009

Bristol’s world cup host city bid has been signed by the city’s council leaders, before submission to the FA tomorrow.

The Council’s Lib Dem leader Barbara Janke and Labour leader Helen Holland officially signed the document on Wednesday lunchtime. Tory leader Richard Eddy was unable to attend, but sent a message of support for the bid.

It will be officially presented to FA bosses during a ceremony at Wembley on Thursday.

Barbara Janke said the bid was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for Bristol and would bring “confidence, investment and income” into the city.

Barbara Janke & Helen Holland Sign Bristol's World Cup Bid

But she admitted there were financial risks, with hosting games in the tournament estimated to cost at least £17m.

She said: “There are clearly significant risks, with big sums of money at stake. It is clearly our intention that council tax payers are not going to have to carry the cost of this.

“We are starting from now to look at how we can raise the necessary funds with businesses, partners and other interested parties so that in nine years time we can fully finance the world cup matches.”

She also confirmed that Portsmouth’s decision to withdraw its hosting bid would make no difference to Bristol.

Portsmouth councillors last night pulled out of the process, with Conservative leader Steve Wemyss saying: ” I would love the World Cup to come to Portsmouth, but not at any cost.

“We are deceiving the council taxpayers if we think we can afford this. Let’s say no rather than have to cut other services to pay for this. We have to be realistic.”

Barbara Janke said: “I think Portsmouth is in a different position from Bristol. The financial pressures on them are bigger than we have here.

“There are also issues about the football club and the stadium, as I understand it. I still think there is a lot of confidence amongst the cities. There are still 15 others involved.

“When I spoke to colleagues at the Core Cities conference a few weeks ago, everybody still seemed very keen and ambitious. They want to take this forward for their own cities and put their cities on the world stage, which is what we want to do in Bristol.”

Barbara Janke also gave more details on how Bristol would finance its bid, without asking council tax payers for the full sum.

She said: “We have opportunities with the business rates, but we will have to take a ballot on that. We are also hoping the government might make lottery money available.

“We have been told that we can raise the business rates locally, so we will have to have a ballot on that. The difficult thing is that the city council does not keep the business rate. It’s kept by central government and reallocated on a per capita basis.

“If we were able to keep the business rate, we would be in a very strong position to finance events like this, but sadly that’s not the case at the moment.”

Audio: Martin Jones interviews Barbara Janke


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Bristol Bid Boss: FIFA Contract Is “Non-Negotiable”

November 25, 2009

Bristol’s World Cup bid boss has insisted local businesses will reap the benefits of hosting the tournament in the city.

Stephen Wray was responding to concerns that the contract Bristol must sign with FIFA contains “draconian” clauses which could leave council tax payers and local businesses footing enormous bills.

City councillors last night rubber-stamped Bristol’s world cup bid, and will formally submit it to FIFA at a Wembley ceremony tomorrow.

The city is committed to spending at least £17m if chosen to host the tournament. According to Mr Wray, this includes the cost of upgrading Bristol City’s new stadium at Ashton Vale to FIFA standards.

However, last night’s meeting saw disagreements between politicians and business leaders over who should foot the bill for the tournament.

But a report submitted to councillors by accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers claims the city will see that money repaid many times over, and that hosting the tournament should be worth £250m to Bristol.

They estimate £150m will be spent in local firms, with a further £100m brought into the city through construction jobs.

Nonetheless, concerns have been expressed over the terms of the deal Bristol, and the other host cities, would be required to make with FIFA.

One clause in the contract says Bristol would get no compensation if matches were cancelled, even if FIFA were shown to be at fault.

Another will require the city to introduce by-laws preventing local businesses “ambush marketing” around the stadium, reserving it for official sponsors only.

Yet the man in charge of Bristol’s bid dismisses these concerns. Bristol bid director Stephen Wray told #SITE_NAME#: “The bottom line is that unless a city is prepared to sign these agreements, you cannot hope to host the world cup. It’s an absolute non-negotiable factor.

“What we have been doing is talking to the government, the DCMS and the LGA and we have got sufficient guarantees that the city’s interests will be protected.”

And he remains adamant local firms would reap massive rewards from games being held in Bristol. He said: “It will be local businesses. That is the money [£150m] that will accrue to the restaurants, bars, hotels, commercial centres, shops and visitor attractions.

“That is the general spending that will take place around a world cup event when you have visitors based in a city over that period of time.”


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Bristol City In Arena ‘Land Swap’ Talks

November 18, 2009

A new arena for Bristol has moved a step closer, as it has emerged that Bristol City FC is in talks aimed at building one alongside its new stadium at Ashton Vale.

Several sources have confirmed to Jones The News that companies involved in the new stadium deal are discussing a ‘land swap’ with the South West Regional Development Agency in order to get an arena built next to the new stadium.

The talks are still at an early stage, but they have already been condemned by Tobacco Factory architect George Ferguson, who calls them “bonkers”.

The South West RDA – responsible for giving money to business projects in the region – still owns about 9 acres of disused land near Temple Meads station. The site had been earmarked for an arena until the plans were scrapped in 2007.

The RDA is now in discussion to swap this land for 6 acres alongside the planned Ashton Vale stadium, owned by the group of companies involved in building the club’s new stadium.

City had wanted to build a housing estate known as ‘Southlands’ on the site, but was denied permission by the council last month, because the land is green belt.

If the swap goes through, Bristol City would then develop the Temple Meads site, possibly for housing, while the RDA builds an arena at Southlands.

The club has previously said it would need to consider a variety of options to adress what it claimed would be a £10m shortfall to its stadium project, following the rejection of Southlands.

Despite last week promising not to build on Bristol’s green belt land, the city’s ruling Lib Dem cabinet say they may allow “exceptional” applications. It is believed an arena would fall into this category.

However, both the RDA and Bristol City FC have refused to comment on the land swap talks.

An RDA spokeswoman said: “Any discussions are just speculation and we will not comment on speculation.” A Bristol City Football Club spokesman said the club would not comment at this stage.

But the plans have been condemned by Tobacco Factory architect George Ferguson. He said: “The RDA have made huge mistakes in the past and this will be another one. An arena on this site is totally inexcusable and it will fail.”

Mr Ferguson has his own proposals for an arena on the Temple Meads site.

But a senior member of the ruling Lib Dem cabinet told Jones The News: “We want to see an arena and our preference is for one which will happen.

“The plan to build an arena at Temple Meads won’t happen. There is no value in fighting old battles all over again.”

Audio: George Ferguson speaks to Jones The News


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Bristol research does not support climate change denial

November 10, 2009

Just wanted to put this out there. I’ve been pretty disappointed, though not entirely surprised, by some of the coverage the Wolfgang Knorr research has received.

Basically, Bristol University scientist Knorr has discovered that the proportion of CO2 being absorbed by natural ‘sinks’ (i.e. the oceans and forests) has stayed roughly the same, despite the amount of carbon being emitted shooting up.

The implication is that we have more time to address climate change than some believe because more carbon has been absorbed than previously thought.

But Dr Knorr is adamant that we must still adress climate change, and favours mandatory caps on emissions. I ask him if that’s what we need to do and he says, “There is no other way”.

But I was aware this story would generate a lot of coverage suggesting the research supports climate change denial, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. I think when the nationals get hold of this (probably tomorrow) it’ll go into overdrive.

So here is an interview in which I ask Dr Knorr specifically whether his research backs up climate sceptics. (He says no, if you can’t listen to it)


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Rookie Councillors To Make “D-Day” Stadium Decision

November 4, 2009

It has emerged that four of the nine councillors who will decide whether Bristol City can build its new stadium at Ashton Vale have been in office less than six months.

Rookie Liberal Democrats Simon Rayner, Cheryl Ann, Fi Hance and Jacqui Bowles were all elected this June, in the election which propelled the Lib Dems to outright power in Bristol for the first time.

They will all be responsible for making what has been described as the biggest decision Bristol City Council has made in living memory.

Bristol City manager Gary Johnson has described it as “D-Day” for his club, and the club’s Chief Executive Colin Sexstone claims it is a “massive day not just for Bristol City but for the region.”

The decision whether or not to grant the club planning permission for its new stadium will be taken at Bristol’s Council House on College Green in a meeting beginning at 6pm Wednesday evening.

The committee will also rule on two housing developments planned alongside the stadium, which Bristol City says are vital to fund the new ground.

An official council report has already recommended the stadium be approved, but one of the two housing estates be rejected. Despite this, committee members are free to vote however they like.

Lib Dem sources deny the councillors are too inexperienced to deal with a decision of this size.

One senior Lib Dem told #SITE_NAME# they had every confidence in the junior councillors as Simon Rayner is an architect by trade, and Fi Hance has worked as an assistant to Bristol West MP Stephen Williams. All the councillors on the committee have been given training in how to make the decision, as the process is “quasi-legal”.

However, another Lib Dem source expressed concern as to whether the newcomers would be able to cope with the pressure in the council chamber. The atmosphere could be volatile, and the council is believed to have increased security ahead of the meeting.

Hundreds of campaigners on both sides of the argument, including Gary Johnson and several City players, are expected to be there to make their views felt.

Two Labour councillors, Sean Beynon and Colin Smith, will not attend as they have been barred from sitting on the committee. Both are season ticket holders at Bristol City. They have been replaced by former Lord Mayor Royston Griffey and Labour veteran John Bees, who has served as a councillor for 17 years. Tories Mark Weston and Lesley Alexander, plus Lib Dem Mary Sykes make up the nine-strong panel.

Members of the committee are banned from expressing their views before the meeting. However, speaking in July, the council’s deputy leader Simon Cook made his personal view clear.

He said: “You have to balance these things against community benefit. We will have a regional sports stadium. It will have a 1000 capacity conference centre in it. There is a possibility of other things going on the site.

“In terms of benefit for the city, we feel that can justify this small section coming out of green belt.”

However, he added that the members of the committee would make a decision independently, and Lib Dem sources have confirmed the stadium decision will not be ‘whipped’, i.e. councillors will not be required to vote on party lines.

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Simon Cook On Stadium Decision

November 3, 2009

Interesting – going back through my old audio, preparing a piece for tomorrow, and I found this from Simon Cook, speaking in July.


No doubt about his personal view, though he does go on to say the planning committee, (five out of nine of whom are Lib Dems) will make their decision completely independently, and solely on planning grounds.

Also, a senior Lib Dem told me today there were concerns whether the four rookie councillors would cope with what’s expected to be a very volatile atmosphere at the council house.

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City “Could Get Tax Cash” For New Stadium

November 3, 2009

Bristol City could get taxpayers’ money to fund its new stadium at Ashton Vale.

The South West Regional Development Agency has confirmed it is in talks with the club about offering funding for the club’s new ground.

The Agency is responsible for distributing government money to projects it believes will benefit the region’s economy.

But Bristol City say any money that might come from the taxpayer would need to be in addition to selling Ashton Gate to Sainsbury’s, not instead of it.

Ian Knight, area director for the South West RDA, exclusively told Jones The News: “”We have met with Bristol City Football Club to discuss how they might be able to help take forward the proposed stadium expansion but those discussions are at a very early stage.”

He added: “It is too early to say if RDA funding would be available for this project.”

But Bristol City’s Chief Executive Colin Sexstone dismissed the suggestion that public funding could mean the club did not have to sell Ashton Gate off as a supermarket.

He said: “It would make no difference to the application for Ashton Gate. We have been in discussions with the RDA, as you would expect with a stadium of this size.

“This sort of discussion is normal in a project like this. There is a fair bit of land remediation that needs to be done. We would be looking to the RDA to help us with that.

“That’s especially true because it will create jobs and bring back an area of the city that, at the moment, can’t be used for employment.

“We’re also looking for them to help us with the infrastructure, and how people get to the site. That might be grants or might be loans. We are in discussion with them, but this issue is not central. We still need to raise the maximum we can from Ashton Gate.”

Sexstone is also adamant that any money from the RDA could not replace the money the club would get from a food store.

He said: “It certainly could not. If someone comes in and gives us the same money as we would get from a food store, they could do what they like with this site.

“They could put housing or sports centres or whatever they like on the site if they match what we would get from a food store. But there is not that sort of public money available at the moment.”

The RDA has also revealed it is committed to providing £20,000 to boost Bristol’s World Cup bid, and would provide the same sum to Plymouth, which is competing with Bristol.

The RDA’s South West Director Ian Knight said: “There are significant economic benefits of being a host city for the 2018 World Cup so we are keen to find out more about the strengths of Bristol’s bid and how it might be presented.

“The city will need to address issues such as transport infrastructure, the local environment, sustainability issues and stadium facilities.

Audio: City Chief Executive Colin Sexstone speaks to Jones The News


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