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