Ashton Gate Tesco Plan “Is No Stitch-Up”September 14, 2009
The councillor in charge of Bristol’s world cup bid has denied the council is “stitching up” the deal to build a Tesco on the site of Bristol City’s Ashton Gate stadium.
It’s after The Bristol Blogger revealed last week that the council owns nearly 20% of the land the club wants to sell to Tesco.
Critics claim, as a result, the council would be unable to make a fair decision on the controversial planning application.
Bristol City FC claims it is “essential” for it to sell the land to the supermarket giant to build its new stadium at Ashton Vale and bid to become a world cup host city in 2018.
But council Deputy Leader Simon Cook told Jones The News it was “absolutely wrong” to suggest the council could not make an independent decision.
He said: “On the face of it, it looks like the city council is stitching up its own planning wishes. But it is not, and it would be entirely illegal if that were to happen. We don’t do it.
“The city council owns 40% of the land in the city so we have to grant planning permission for our own projects all the time. We did it with the Colston Hall, the Museum of Bristol, a raft of schools in the area and several leisure centres.”
Mr Cook also again insisted the planning decision would be made independently of political considerations.
He said: “It’s a planning decision pure and simple. It will be considered under planning law, and will be entirely independent. It is not the intention of the city council to influence that. That would be illegal.”
But a campaigner from anti-Tesco group BERATE claims the value of the council’s land at Ashton Gate means selling it must be a political decision.
The law states any decision to sell land valued at more than £500,000 must be taken by senior councillors, and with the council owning 20% of the Ashton Gate land – valued at £20m – it appears to be worth at least £4m.
Chris Uttley said: “It would seem hard for the public authority to sell that land without it being a political decision.
“Even if planning permission is granted, without that land the development can’t occur. It seems to be some sort of political decision to renegotiate the lease or sell it to the football club.
“Simon Cook is choosing his words carefully. The decision to grant planning permission should be an independent one.
“But the decision about whether to sell the land isn’t a planning issue. It must be, partly at least, a political decision.”