Ferguson calls on mayor to press on with arena

Published on: 29 Sep 2017

George FergusonMarvin Rees

Pictured: former mayor George Ferguson and his successor, Marvin Rees 

FORMER Bristol mayor George Ferguson has urged his successor, Marvin Rees, to press ahead with plans for a Bristol arena.

Mr Ferguson believes there are elements in Bristol Labour Party who want to see the project axed.

Writing in the Bristol Post on September 26, Mr Ferguson said a Labour member had confronted him and accused him of wasting millions of council money building a bridge to Arena Island.  

“Much more disturbingly they seemed to be celebrating that the arena would never be built,” wrote Mr Ferguson.

The ex-mayor, who lost to Mr Rees in the May 2016 election, said he feared elements in Bristol Labour want to see the arena fail, and will then blame him.

No council money was spent on the Arena Island bridge – the £11 million bill was paid by the Homes and Communities Agency.

Mr Ferguson said the council has spent a further £15m which will be lost if the arena isn’t built.

He predicted, however, that it would cost up to £120m – at least £20m more than is budgeted.

He said Mr Rees had told him he was committed to the arena.

“I believe him, but I also believe we are seeing death by review,” wrote Mr Ferguson, referring to the two reviews of the project which are under way.

One review is asking if the arena is value for money and if it should be scaled down; the other is a negotiation with contractor Buckingham Group on the cost.

Mr Ferguson said the reviews will report in October – though the Voice has been told to expect a result near the end of the year.

Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Labour member for Bedminster and a former cabinet member for both Mr Ferguson and Mr Rees, said: “I remain convinced Bristol needs a high quality, well-located arena. 

We are losing out economically and in cultural terms to other cities. Leadership on these major projects is much needed and a decision to proceed or not is now overdue.”

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