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Opinion: Bristol wants the arena on Arena Island

This article was first published by ' Bristol 24/7' and was written by Bristol Green Party's Deputy coordinator, Sandy Hore-Ruthven. 

The ‘launch’ of an alternative vision for Arena Island came at a convenient time for mayor Marvin Rees – just two days before cabinet papers proposing the arena be scrapped at Temple Meads.

So well timed is this announcement that you might be forgiven for thinking that it was politically-motivated. Giving Marvin an answer to the question ‘what would go on arena island if the arena is moved elsewhere?’.

And, on the surface, he may think it answers the sequential planning test problem that says big developments like the arena should be placed in the city centre before any other sites are considered.

So, the pieces are in place and the master plan is taking shape – the final piece of the puzzle will be the cabinet announcement of the arena in Filton on September 4.

The masterplan will then be complete.  Except of course it won’t be. All that will have happened is that a concrete, costed, shovel-ready plan that will be good for Bristol has been replaced by two ideas that are nothing more than pictures on pieces of paper.

City planning is not a chessboard where developments can be moved around like pawns until you find the perfect set up. Each move takes years of planning, investment, costing, transport studies and financing until eventually, the digging can start.  This timeline doesn’t include any legal challenges or costs either.

My own experience of large capital developments (in the tens of millions of pounds) tells me that the time to take an idea to reality is usually double what you think it will be and then some.

Talking to friends who have developed arenas on the scale we are looking at in Bristol, they say it is seven years minimum. And, unless Marvin has been working on it for years, we are still a long way off from seeing it happening in Bristol.

The proposals for Arena Island and Filton are hollow – (not so pretty) pictures with a few figures attached to them.

The thing I find so hard to understand is that there are other places in the city centre for the type of development Legal & General have put forward.

So, let’s start planning those but not at the expense of an arena that is ready to go. We really can have our arena and a convention centre and housing.

Full Council gets to express its opinion on the arena site next week and if councillors have their ear to the ground I hope that all of them will vote with their constituents’ views in mind and send a clear message to the mayor – Bristol wants the arena on Arena Island.

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