Posts Tagged ‘stadium’

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Council Will Not Be Stadium Shareholders

January 8, 2010

The claims, made on Tony D’s Aurea Mediocritas Blog, have been dismissed as “inaccurate and unsubstantiated” by Bristol City, and have also been denied by a senior Lib Dem source on the city council.

The article claimed Bristol City Council had approached Bristol City FC with an offer to become minority shareholders in the stadium, which City refused.

Such a plan would effectively mean the stadium being partly funded by council taxpayers’ money and partly owned by the city of Bristol.

But Bristol City spokesman Adam Baker strenuously denied the suggestions, saying: “”No such offer has been made. This blog is inaccurate and unsubstantiated.

“We have worked very closely with the City Council from the very outset and that process continues to involve detailed discussion and negotiation on a range of issues.

“We are confident that we will complete the remaining details of the planning process on the stadium in the next few weeks.

“Our plan to open a new 30,000 seater regional stadium and move into a new home for the 2012/13 season remains on track.”

A senior source on the city’s ruling Lib Dem group also forcefully denied the claims.

However, the row has reopened the debate on whether there should be public funding available for the new stadium.

Bristol City Chief Executive Colin Sexstone has previously said one of the strengths of the stadium plan was that it was funded completely by private investment and that this was something Bristol should be proud of. He has also said there is currently no public money available for the stadium.

However, as exclusively reported by Jones The News, regional quango the South West RDA have been in talks with the club about a possible public investment for the stadium.

The RDA is currently in talks with the city council about swapping the former arena site at Temple Meads with a plot adjacent to the site of the new stadium, in order to make building an arena at Ashton Vale easier.

The question of public investment may become more urgent if the club’s current plan to fund the stadium by selling Ashton Gate to Sainsbury’s runs into trouble.

The club hopes to raise £20m towards its new ground by selling its ground to the supermarket giant.

However, the planning report into the Tesco proposal was highly critical, leading many to speculate it would have been turned down by the city council.

Sources at the now-disbanded anti-Tesco campaign group Berate claimed to Jones The News they interpreted the report as being critical of any supermarket on the Ashton Gate site, and believe the Sainsbury’s plan will receive a similarly hostile reception from planners.

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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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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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TESNO: Supermarket Giant Pulls Out Of Ashton Gate Deal

October 27, 2009

There will be no Tesco superstore on the site of Bristol City’s Ashton Gate stadium.

The supermarket giant has confirmed it has pulled out of a proposed deal with the club. The news follows newspaper reports at the weekend the club was now in talks with Sainsbury’s.

In a statement, Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager Juliette Bishop told Jones The News: “We are always on the look out for possible sites all over the country and the possibility of a new Tesco store at Ashton Gate was one such site.

“We were interested in the Club’s proposals should they get outline planning consent for a food store next month. Inevitably, not all of these projects move ahead to implementation.

“Having considered the Ashton Gate project at length, Tesco has withdrawn its participation from the scheme.”

“We wish the Club well in its ongoing efforts to deliver a new stadium and good luck to Bristol with its bid to be a 2018 World Cup Host City.”

Despite Tesco’s withdrawal, the club is still believed to be in talks with Sainsbury’s, though has refused to comment while negotiations are still taking place.

Bristol City Chief Executive Colin Sexstone said today: “There is no comment I can make. But we are continuing to push forward with a food store application for this site.

“At the moment that is the only way we can find to raise the sort of money we need to build a stadium. If we can’t raise that money, the whole project becomes unviable.”

Tom Griffin, a spokesman for anti-Tesco campaign group BERATE, said: “We just have to wait and see what will be applied for.

“Any new application could conceivably be a benefit but equally it could be as bad as having two individual stores, depending on the scale of the development.

“At this moment, we can’t comment on how we feel about it until we know what the plans will be.”

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Report Objects to “Inappropriate” Stadium Plan

October 5, 2009

A report by North Somerset council has criticised Bristol City’s plan for a new stadium at Ashton Vale as “inappropriate” to be built on the green belt.

The report attacks the proposed stadium’s appearance as “bland and imbalanced”. It also claims not enough has been done to make the site accessible for pedestrians, and calls for better car parking arrangements.

It recommends that councillors formally oppose the plans when they meet to consider the report on Thursday.

The report is a setback for the club’s ambitions but is a long way from being the final word.

The report acknowledges that the main decision should lie with Bristol City Council because most of the stadium’s impact, positive and negative, will be on the city itself.

Only 10% of the land earmarked for development is in North Somerset; the rest is within the city of Bristol.

But the report warns the stadium should only be approved if Bristol City Council is satisfied there are “very special circumstances” for granting permission.

Bristol City FC has already argued that there are very special circumstances which mean permission should be granted.

It says it has tried for the last ten years to find an alternative site, looking at around 30 different locations, but that none can be found.

Club bosses also cite the stadium’s economic benefits, creating 80 jobs during construction and 400 once complete. They say it could also act as a catalyst for the regeneration of south Bristol, and act as a potential world cup host venue.

Bristol City Council will consider the planning application on November 5th.

As previously reported on Jones The News, if Bristol is “minded to approve” the plans, it will submit them to the government for rubber-stamping.

Link: the North Somerset council report

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Tesco Plan “Essential” For New City Stadium

August 18, 2009

Bristol City FC Chief Executive Colin Sexstone claims getting planning permission to sell Ashton Gate to Tesco is “essential” to the club building its new stadium at Ashton Vale.

He describes alternative plans for Ashton Gate as “laudable” but says no realistic alternatives have been put forward.

His comments come as the club formally submits its planning application to Bristol City Council, which it did on Monday.

Citys stadium plans

City's stadium plans

He told Jones The News: “Stadiums are expensive beasts, and it appears there is no public money available for this – as there might be on the continent. So it must be funded by Bristol City.

“The only asset we have is Ashton Gate, and we must raise as much money as we can. The difference between using this for food retail and a mixed use site could be as much as fifteen million pounds.

“If someone else can suggest how we could raise that money, we’re all ears. But no-one has suggested anything else as yet.”

The plans have only been submitted as outlines at the moment, but it’s thought the proposed store could be as big as 8,400 sq metres, about a third bigger than the nearby ASDA store in Bedminster. Tesco also estimates the supermarket would see a car arriving approximately every five seconds.

Colin Sexstone does not believe any alternative uses suggested for the site, such as housing or sports facilities, are feasible.

He added: “Unless someone can raise the money, they’re not feasible. If Bristol City Council want to raise £20m or so they can do what they like with it.

“But none of the suggestions that have been made – laudable though they are – can help us build the new stadium. The new stadium will be a fantastic community facility.

“The alternative is that, if we don’t raise that money, we will stay where we are.”

Campaign group BERATE, who oppose the Tesco plans, say on their web site: “This community has hosted and supported the club for 100 years and we believe that the club should leave an alternative legacy, more in keeping with the original use for this site.

“We propose that the site could provide new sports and play facilities for the community along with new housing. These will increase participation in sport and play, and provide much needed housing in this area.”

Audio:  Martin Jones interviews Colin Sexstone

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Colin Sexstone Interview 22nd June

July 7, 2009

I interviewed Colin Sexstone, Bristol City’s Chief Executive (i.e. business manager) on June 22nd, ahead of City’s first major exhibition of the Tesco plans.

I’ve included the full interview, but I think I can accurately summarise his position as saying that the Tesco plan is “crucial” to City being able to fund the new stadium, but he stops just short of saying that they can’t do it without Tesco.

Important part is after about 2 mins.

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