Bristol is set to scrap Populous’s long-awaited project for an arena in the city centre after its mayor dismissed the scheme as an ‘undeliverable vanity project’
The council’s cabinet will vote next week on a recommendation to ‘take all steps necessary’ to cease work on the project, which received planning permission in 2016.
The move follows a report in June by consultant KPMG which said that developing the site at Temple Island without the sports and music venue, and building the new arena on an out-of-town site at Filton, would provide a better cost-benefit ratio.
The report recommends that the council ‘continues to work with partners to develop an alternative mixed-use scheme for the Temple Island site’. It said that the proposals should include a conference centre and hotel, commercial and retail space and homes.
The report also called for a business case to be drawn up for the re-allocation to other projects of the £53 million earmarked for the arena project through the sub-region’s city deal with government.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees called the original city centre arena proposals, which had been championed by his predecessor George Ferguson, a ’completely undeliverable vanity project’ and said the council now had ’structured, affordable options which all have merits and put less pressure on the public purse’.
He said: ’We must make a decision which is evidence-based, set against clear criteria, for inclusive economic growth, jobs and homes, and on the best option which delivers for the future of the city centre. This cannot be a decision that serves political opportunism.’
But Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South, in which the Temple Island site is situated, said she was disappointed that the council considering dropping the arena proposal.
She said: ‘I appreciate the financial confines within which the council is working and understand the need to ensure value for money, but Bristol South needs this development.
’The wider economic benefits – including job and apprenticeship opportunities – and the social value of keeping it within the city centre and accessible to people living in Bristol South must not be underestimated.
‘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.’
Earlier this month, former Bristol mayor George Ferguson 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 to Rees, published on Facebook, scheme promoters Temple Island Arena Ltd said arenas built in city-centre locations, supported city centre retail and leisure destinations already ’under pressure from out-of-town developments’.
A team led by Populous, including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and engineering firm BuroHappold, 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.
Last week, financial backer Legal & General unveiled a scheme designed by Zaha Hadid Architects for the site, proposing 550 homes, including 220 affordable, two major office buildings as well as a 345-room hotel.
Populous were approached for comment.