Posts Tagged ‘Ashton Vale’

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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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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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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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Bedminster groups “alarmed” and “disappointed” by Tesco plans

May 28, 2009

Community groups in Bedminster say they’re “disappointed” and “alarmed” by Bristol City’s plans to sell its Ashton Gate stadium to Tesco.

The club could raise as much as £20m towards its new Ashton Vale stadium by selling the ground to the supermarket giant for redevelopment.

Tesco claims the plan could generate as many as 1000 jobs in the area, and it could also enable Bristol to host football World Cup games. Yet there is expected to be strong local opposition to the plans.

Ben Barker from the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership told Original he was “alarmed” by the proposal.

He said: “One of the things about the Bedminster area is that it has a lot of character. There are a lot of small shops.

“They’re likely to be driven out of business by a big thing like Tesco: it’s happened elsewhere. Then our area will look like every other area of the country.

“It will have the same shops, the same dominant food outlets and it will lose all character and interest. That’s not good for the community.”

He also says Tesco’s claim of creating 1000 jobs should be offset against the number of local jobs destroyed by the plans.

One trader on North Street, who didn’t wish to be named, told Original he was “deeply disappointed” by the plans but it was something they “would have to work with”.

The club is expected to put its planning application to Bristol City Council within the next few months.