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Council ditches Populous’s Bristol Arena scheme

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Bristol City Council has scrapped plans for a Populous-designed arena next to Temple Meads station – with a Zaha Hadid Architects scheme in pole position to take over on the site

The council’s cabinet voted in line with an officer recommendation to ‘take all steps necessary’ to cease work on the long-awaited project, which received planning permission in 2016.

The move follows a report in June by consultant KPMG, which said that a better cost:benefit ratio could be achieved by developing the Temple Island site without the sports and music venue, and building an arena on an out-of-town site at Filton.

Councillors said they would now explore plans for a mixed-use development at Temple Island, in partnership with Legal & General, which last month unveiled a scheme designed by Zaha Hadid Architects for the site, proposing 550 homes, two major office buildings and a 345-room hotel.

A  business case will be developed to reallocate the £53 million earmarked for the arena project from the Economic Development Fund. It will be submitted to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership for approval.

Bristol deputy mayor for finance, governance and performance Craig Cheney said: ’It is the council’s duty to seek the best possible value for public money and the greatest economic benefit for Bristol and this has been central to the decision. We cannot ignore the evidence, which shows that a mixed use scheme on Temple Island would bring an extra £500 million in economic benefit to our city and create three times the number of jobs for the people of Bristol.’

Mayor Marvin Rees added: ’We need to move forward now and ensure Bristol is fit for the demands of a modern, thriving and well-connected city. I am confident an alternative development for Temple Island is at the heart of that vision and will create inclusive economic growth, jobs and homes.’

There has been much local support for Populous’s arena plans. A petition to see a stadium built at Temple Island attracted more than 6,000 signatures.

MP for Bristol South Karin Smyth has also campaigned for the project to remain. She said last month: ‘Millions of pounds have already been spent on preparations for the arena in city centre, and Bristol has already waited long enough for its own arena. I sincerely hope that we can find a way to keep the much-needed Bristol Arena in the planned location and not waste any more time and money.’

And former Bristol mayor George Ferguson last month launched a ferocious attack on ‘lunatic’ proposals to build a sports and music arena on an out-of-town site.

Defending its proposals in an open letter published on Facebook, scheme promoters Temple Island Arena last month said arenas built in city-centre locations supported city centre retail and leisure destinations already ’under pressure from out-of-town developments’.

Populous declined to comment this morning. The practice led a team including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and engineering firm BuroHappold, which won the competition for the Bristol Arena project in March 2015, when it was selected ahead of consortia led by Grimshaw, Spain’s IDOM, White Arkitekter and WilkinsonEyre.

Zha dieseldepotsite view 01

Zaha Hadid Architects’ Diesel Depot plans for the site of the proposed but now-scrapped Bristol Arena

Zaha Hadid Architects’ Diesel Depot plans for the site of the proposed but now-scrapped Bristol Arena

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Bristol's loss is KPMG's, Legal and General's, and ZHA's gain, in the long term.
    The claim of an extra £500m in economic benefit is interesting - benefit to whom, I wonder? And three times the number of jobs, from the proposed 'mixed use scheme', needs explaining in detail.
    Marvin Rees - talking of visions of a modern, thriving and well-connected city - is presumably aware of just what an urban car-crash this side of the inner city is - with Temple Meads station (let alone the arena site) crying out for decent public transport and pedestrian links with the city centre on the other side of the post WW2 ring road dual carriageway, which forms a really unpleasant barrier.
    At one time there was a nasty pedestrian subway complete with derelict, rubbish filled escalators; you have to negotiate the tides of traffic via tedious pedestrian crossings, and the bus connections at the station (even into the centre) must be among the most user-unfriendly of any large European city.
    Bristol has so much going for it that it's really sad to see the city council being led by the nose by KPMG and promises of paradise via what looks like a killing for a bit of opportunistic sub-King's Cross property development.

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  • Another day and a lot more sleaze has floated to the surface on the depths to which the KPMG management will sink to enrich themselves, and keep their clients sweet.
    The same day that more proof surfaced of the poisonous nature of the Russian gangster-state a six page report in Private Eye has recorded the history of how KPMG - among others - has over a few decades enabled kleptocracy to thrive and grow powerful by choosing to turn a hugely profitable blind eye to industrial-scale corporate crookery and international money-laundering, and paint a picture of probity where none existed.
    Worse than that, in their role as auditors and tax advisers they've been happy to oil the wheels of the very culture that saw Sergei Magnitsky murdered slowly in prison in Russia and Daphne Caruana Galizia blown to pieces in Malta.
    Presumably Marvin Rees, Craig Cheney and the Bristol City Council Cabinet would plead ignorance of all this in their enthusiasm to dump the very popular arena project in favour of some property development on KPMG's advice.
    They were not to know that they were putting their desire for a 'modern, thriving and well-connected city' in the hands of an outfit doing their bit to ensure a 'modern, thriving and well-connected' Russian mafia.
    But if the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership are minded to nod this one through, they should think very hard about what they're at - about just what sort of enterprise they should be encouraging..

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