Bristol has been debating having an Arena for decades with the current campaign going back at least 15 years. Two weeks ago a series of reports were published weighing up two possible locations for the future project - Temple Island in the City Centre and the Brabazon Hangars in Brentry.
Councillors on the Overview & Scrutiny Management Board have held three long meetings this week to examine closely the value-for-money assessments on the two options. Interviewing the operators, designers, auditors, Council Officers and almost anyone else associated with the schemes.
Now, after consideration of all the information published, including a surprising offer by the Temple Quarter developers to keep construction costs within the target budget (£122m), My conservative colleagues and I have unanimously agreed to back the Arena Island site over the Brabazon Hangar location being proposed by the Malaysian Company YTL.
This has been a very demanding process but an extremely worthwhile and necessary examination of the two sites. At this time, because of their differing stages of development, it has been almost impossible to directly compare the competing claims.
The consultants KPMG make a strong economic case for the Filton alternative.
However, we feel that they have understated other key risks associated with such a switch and as such we remain concerned with several aspects of the Filton proposal. This includes the fact that the Arena Island proposal is in effect ‘shovel ready’ whilst the YTL proposal is still very much in its infancy; there remains uncertainty over securing all the planning permissions; and the prospect of costly delays in delivery of the requisite transport infrastructure upgrades that YTL are demanding. We are also concerned that an Arena going to Filton will lead to even more houses on the former runway with even more traffic congesting the already busy roads of North Bristol.
Conversely, whilst there are well known downsides with the Temple Island plan – based largely around lack of parking; city centre congestion and limited access – we are conscious that any further delay will only increase costs and ultimately threaten its delivery.
We also want a project that delivers the biggest shot in the arm for Bristol’s economy. An Arena at Temple Island will provide a real boost for the City Centre and support the local businesses.
We know that on paper Arena Island looks more expensive, but the developers are confident that they can keep to budget. It has all the necessary planning consents and is ready-to-go.
Now is the time to stop all the talking, dithering and prevarication and get on with delivering this flagship project for Bristol.