Arena decision: Why are we letting austerity dictate how our city should grow?
You can’t shrink to greatness! But with the arena decision at cabinet last week that is what it feels like Bristol has done.
Marvin, understandably, blamed austerity, which of course is an accolade of the Conservative party along with the bankers who played with our money like a game of monopoly. But whilst austerity is a reality we can chose how to respond to it.
The decision to ‘explore other options’ for the Arena Island site will do nothing but kick any decision into the long grass. A shrinking away from a decision to do anything for the city. The Mayor tries to pitch the decision as avoiding risk, staying safe and avoiding problems in the future but really it is no decision at all. The ‘alternative proposal’ for arena island appeared a week before the decision was made and is little more than a pretty picture. The promise of affordable homes has already been undermined by Legal and Generals insistence on building only 4 affordable homes (3%) on another development in the Temple Quarter. Marvin aimed to characterise the debate as those who are for housing or for entertainment. This is a false choice. A mixed use development and the housing we desperately need can be built on another site. There are many in the city centre.
So, we will be left with a derelict site that creates no affordable homes, no convention centre and no arena for a long while yet.
Why are we letting austerity dictate how our city should grow? The Mayor says ‘at times of jeopardy our appetite for risk should shrink’. I disagree – taking well thought through opportunities will make Bristol stand out from the crowd. Showing the UK and the world that we do get things done and we are not afraid of uncertainty but see it as an opportunity to grow and show off the best Bristol has to offer. Building an Arena on Temple Island is an investment in our future. Something fun for the people of Bristol and a great way of showing off our city to the region and the world. I think if we are really clever we could build the houses and convention centre nearby too.
Times of change are uncertain but to batten down the hatches, close off opportunities and turn inward misses the opportunities that still exist to make Bristol and even better place to be.
Sandy Hore-Ruthven is deputy coordinator for Bristol Green Party and the Green candidate for Mayor.