Please note, as with all blog posts, this is the opinion of Councillor Tom Brook and does not necessarily represent the view of the wider Bishopston & Ashley Down Labour Party.
During the course of this week, Bristol City Council’s most senior scrutiny body, on which I sit, has been examining the recent value for money reports into the planned Bristol Arena at Temple Meads, and the possible alternative at Filton.
What has become clear to me is that the only reasonable option to build an arena in Bristol is Temple Meads.
I’ve come to this conclusion after carefully considering the arguments and taking into account the evidence heard. I started the week with an open mind as to either option, but now I am certain that Temple Meads is the better site.
The Temple Meads site is well placed with better transport links and more sustainable & public transport connections. It will contribute to the continued economic wellbeing of Bristol City Centre, and will provide access to jobs and opportunities for the whole of the city. It is a proposal that is ready to build, with a low risk of being undeliverable. Whilst expensive, it is likely that costs can be cut further, and there is a low chance of going over budget given the “pain/gain share” incentive, where the constructor loses money if they go over budget.
Filton, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite. It would cause considerable economic leakage out of Bristol, and would severely damage the City Centre by supporting Cribbs Causeway. Transport in that area of the city is already a nightmare and it would be made worse by an arena, even with proposed public transport improvements. Whilst it would save the council money, we would lose all control over how social value is built into the project. But most of all, there is a huge deliverability risk. The private developer, YTL, require us to abandon Temple Meads now for them to develop their option. However there are so many unknowns – in finances, transport, planning policy, visitor projections, etc. – that YTL may later back out of the project, leaving Bristol high and dry with no arena.
For me it’s become clear that, if we want an arena in Bristol, Temple Meads is the best location. To send it to Filton would be reckless and a betrayal of our economic, environmental, social and cultural duties to the city.