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Bristol Arena caught in mayoral election crossfire

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The £95m Bristol Arena by Populous has become embroiled in a political spat between mayoral hopefuls duelling for the city’s forthcoming election

Independent incumbent George Ferguson, a former president of the RIBA, has blasted his Labour rival for ‘playing politics’ after he backed city councillors decisions to defer a key planning decision.

Ferguson believes the political crossfire risks causing expensive delays to the competition-winning project which had been expected to complete in 2018.

‘The arena has now been put at risk by the decision that was taken…to defer,’ Ferguson said. ‘They decided to delay when they knew there was a real cost involved in doing that in terms of construction inflation costs and maintaining the project team.’

Labour candidate Marvin Rees said he wanted the arena to go-ahead but ‘not just rushed through as a vanity project.’

‘To build a 12,000 capacity arena with only 200 parking spaces, and without a transport plan, is folly.’

His comments came in a tweet, backing Helen Holland, a Labour member of Bristol’s planning committee.

The decision on the arena was delayed for lack of a ‘concrete travel plan’ for the arena, which has a capacity of 12,000 but plans for just 200 parking spaces.

Council official say the applicants want the arena to be a ‘sustainable development’, expecting attendees to arrive by public transport, by bike or on foot. The site is close to Bristol city centre and the Temple Meads train station.Concerns about the proposed transport plan were most numerous in a consultation on the planning application.

One respondent described the expectation that arena users would use public transport as ‘naïve’. Another said an arena in Bristol would be ‘excellent all round except for the lack of parking’.

Council officials recommended approving the plan. Councillors could ‘confidence’ in a transport ‘framework’ being drawn up for the area, given that the council was ‘the project promoter and the transport authority’.

Ferguson has called on councillors to amend their decision before the May election.

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