Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Ex-Bristol mayor blasts plans to build Populous arena outside centre

  • 1 Comment

Former Bristol mayor George Ferguson has launched a ferocious attack on ‘lunatic’ proposals to build a sports and music arena on an out-of-town site

In July, a report by accountant KPMG concluded that a new arena north of the city at Filton would provide a better cost-benefit ratio than consented plans designed by Populous for the city centre.

But Ferguson, a former RIBA president, criticised this report in an open letter, and said that any planning application for a Filton arena would fail at planning.

He said: ‘I have sought expert planning advice from several quarters and established that it would be impossible for any self-respecting city planner to recommend approval for such a significant venue on the edge of the city when alternative sites exist in or near the centre, as they clearly do.

‘This is known as the Sequential Planning Test, an excellent piece of planning legislation, which was introduced in 2014 to ensure the vitality of our town centres.’

Ferguson said he realised his intervention was burning bridges with his successor, and that he wished the current mayor, Marvin Rees, all success for Bristol.

‘However my patience only goes so far when Bristol’s future is threatened by a lunatic proposal promoted by those with self-interest to a person who seems to have little understanding of how a city ticks,’ he said.

A team led by Populous, including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and engineer BuroHappold, won the competition for the Bristol Arena project in March 2015, seeing off consortiums headed by Grimshaw, Spain’s IDOM, White Arkitekter and WilkinsonEyre.

Ferguson’s letter comes two months before the expected publication of the final version of the West of England city region’s transport strategy.

This is expected to include plans unveiled last year to create an underground railway network for the city, which Rees says will cost between £3 billion and £4 billion.

Temple meads

Temple meads

Other architects voiced mixed opinions about spending the sum on underground transportation.

Mike Harris, senior associate planner in Stride Treglown’s Places group, said: ‘It shouldn’t be forgotten that there is disused track bed across the region that could relatively simply be reopened, Portishead to Bristol being a good example.

‘A potentially more cost-effective solution might free up funds for a series of other active travel and public transport initiatives that would make a significant contribution to the ongoing success of Bristol as a place to live and work.’

Shankari Raj, founder of Nudge Group, said: ‘The topography of Bristol, the architecture and the narrow streets are why the transport debate and the solution has been an ongoing ‘head scratch’ for generations, which is why it continues to divide people.

‘And with such a large influx of people to the city over the last two years, our streets are getting pretty full and a solution does need to be found.’

But she said the estimated £4 billion cost could be used instead to create a series of ‘greenways’, plant more trees and provide local services to reduce the need to travel across the city.

‘Technology continues to be the shining beacon for many,’ she added, ‘but my gut feeling is that there will be many stops and starts with an underground scheme due to political change and wasted taxpayers’ money, loans and debts – and the only ones to win will be the consultancy firm advocating this move and the mega-contractors making millions from the continued delays that will be inevitable.’

Ashley Smith, founding director of Smith Maloney Architects, said: ‘The push for increased housing density in the centre and new urban centres popping up on the periphery will put greater demand on the existing transport infrastructure.

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • 'Promoted by those with self interest' - KPMG? - heaven forfend!
    I wonder if they'd have condemned the location of Manchester City's Emirates Stadium on the fringe of the city centre, and the presence of Edinburgh's Murrayfield stadium not far from the city centre?
    George Ferguson is surely absolutely correct to warn his successor not to be led by the nose by one of the 'Fat Four' (as Private Eye fondly calls them, with considerable justification).
    But to focus on the welfare of Bristol itself, the notion of underground railways sounds rather fanciful - some years ago the electorate of Zurich voted resoundingly against an underground rail network in favour of more nuanced mass transit founded on the development of their excellent tram system (and Zurich, though far wealthier than Bristol, knows the value of money).
    Bristol has no trams, but has the substantial resource of disused rail corridors noted by Mike Harris - and regarding the topography mentioned as a factor by Shankari Raj, Bristol's is surely no more challenging than that of Sheffield, where trams have ably demonstrated their capabilities even in heavy snow. And it's no coincidence that the Manchester Emirates and Edinburgh Murrayfield stadia both benefit from having tram stations designed to handle large crowds.
    In Bristol the existing Avonmouth rail link, the impending revival of the line to Portishead, and the current quadrupling of the main line north out of Temple Meads station as far as Filton all combine to help create a fledgling suburban network - and maybe even scope for tram trains linking the city centre streets with outlying suburbs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.