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Green Councillors: Let's Build Bristol's Arena at Temple Meads

Statement by Bristol Green Councillors Jerome Thomas and Stephen Clarke: Let's Build Bristol's Arena at Temple Meads

On behalf of Bristol’s Greens we’d like to register our concern about the delays getting started on Bristol’s proposed arena and now the exploration of a site on Filton airfield as a possible alternative venue.

We appreciate the Mayor's concerns and efforts to get the best possible arena deal for Bristol. However, it seems there is now a fixed price bid of under £120 million from Buckingham Group to build an arena on Arena Island next to Bristol Temple Meads station. As a result the city’s exposure to cost overruns will be minimised. Buckingham Group have solid experience of developments of this kind and so we can have a good level of confidence that the city can get the arena it wants at a price that is manageable.

Bristol is the only one of the UK’s Core Cities to have no city centre arena. Major arena and sporting venues elsewhere exist in city centres with limited parking. Whether it’s the Glasgow Arena, the Manchester Arena or even the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, these are all centre of city locations with good public transport links and minimal parking provision. Detailed discussions about the level of parking provision for the Bristol arena should not distract us from getting the right location for the arena in the first place.

An arena in the centre of our city with great transport links will provide people in Bristol and the surrounding regions with the opportunity to see national acts that currently pass us by. Siting the arena on Arena Island is a wonderful opportunity to regenerate and open up this part of the city, providing employment opportunities for people living  in walking distance of the site in Ashley, Easton, Lawrence Hill, Brislington East, Brislington West, Windmill Hill, Central and other neighbouring city wards. It will also strengthen the economic vitality of our city centre retailers and other service businesses and allow us to grow the essential revenue the city receives from its business rates. These are some of the reasons this site was selected in the first place.

A Bristol arena at Filton airfield would require a significant amount of parking to service it, in an area that already suffers from severe congestion and traffic jams on a daily basis. Being located some distance from the centre of Bristol it would provide little additional benefit to arena guests nor added value to businesses in the city.

While we recognise that the construction of an arena is expensive, particularly in times of austerity, we have already spent over £10 million on the development of this site and any alternative site could be significantly more expensive. As well as the guaranteed revenue from the arena operator over a ten year period of over £30 million, we also note that good property investment decisions by the city and potential windfall property gains could result in capital gains to the city in excess of £25 million. These capital gains could further offset the cost to the city of the proposed development. 

Approving and starting work on the Bristol Arena on Arena Island in January 2018 would be exactly the kind of decisive action that City hopes for from its elected Mayor. By the time the Global Parliament of Mayors comes to Bristol next year, construction of the arena would be in full flow; a practical demonstration that Bristol's elected mayors can deliver for the city.

Councillors Stephen Clarke and Jerome Thomas

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