The arena: Totterdown speaks

Published on: 07 Nov 2015

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FEARS that plans for the Bristol arena will be pushed through without proper consideration of the effects on South Bristol residents were expressed in force at a public meeting in Totterdown.

Residents packed into Totterdown Methodist church hall for the meeting on October 2, which was arranged with community group Tresa after public objections to the fact that no local meetings were planned.

They were told that it would make no difference that Bristol City Council is the developer and is also responsible for ruling on the planning application.

Stuart Woods of the council’s arena project team told residents there was a “Chinese wall” between the officials planning the 12,000 capacity arena and those judging the application.

The application is expected to be submitted in early November. It will be followed by six weeks of consultation before the planning committee makes a decision. Another consultation event in Totterdown is expected to be announced soon.

The cost of the project has risen from £91 million to £93m, and completion is now expected in early 2018 rather than 2017.

Planning is one of the few areas where councillors take decisions, rather than mayor George Ferguson.

Some residents queried the pre-planning consultation process, which ended on October 13, with most of the information events taking place in the city centre rather than in neighbourhoods near the arena.

“I don’t think people have been given an opportunity to comment,” said one. “I’m very in favour of the arena but I’m very concerned about the traffic plans.” 

No parking spaces have been identified for arena users south of the river, she said.

Another resident pointed out that traffic around Ashton Gate during Bristol City games is “horrendous”, and pleaded for something to be done to alleviate the Three Lamps bottleneck. “I’m all in favour of the arena but if we have an event there and City are playing at home, the whole city is going to be gridlocked.”

Much criticism focused on the lack of detail in the arena plan – the full transport plan and environmental assessment will not be released until the planning application is made. Calls for Three Lamps junction to be altered to allow a right turn from Wells Road are not part of the arena plan because officials say the arena itself will not increase traffic enough to make it necessary. 

Andrew Davies, a council transport officer, said 44 per cent of traffic for the arena is expected to  approach from the north and only about eight per cent from the south through Three Lamps.

“We cannot use this development [the arena] to solve the wider transport problems,” he said.

Gary Hopkins, the council’s Lib-Dem leader, hit back, saying the arena is going to contribute to traffic problems, adding: “If you are trying to say it’s got nothing to do with the arena you are missing the point.”

Residents should not have to pay for any mitigation to the problems they will suffer because of the arena, such as residents parking schemes, he said.”The developer should pay for it, and that needs to be a planning condition,” he said, to applause.

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