Arena consultation announced

September 03 2015
Arena consultation announced

The long-awaited details of the arena public consultation process show there will be no special meetings in the communities likely to be affected by the development.

Consultation displays will be mostly at council offices 

THE city council has been accused of taking its cue for public consultation on the proposed arena from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The long-awaited details of the arena public consultation process show there will be no special meetings in the communities likely to be affected by the development.

Instead, displays will be on show in the council offices at 100 Temple Street. The Windmill Hill neighbourhood partnership meeting on September 22 may be part of the consultation – but nothing had been decided as the Voice went to press. 

There will be two “manned drop-in sessions” at 100 Temple Street where the public will be able to ask questions.

There will be an exhibition at the Central Library – but no date has been announced. There will also be a one-day staffed exhibition in the Galleries shopping centre (see panel).

It had been expected by many that meetings and exhibitions would be held in the communities affected by the arena such as Totterdown, Windmill Hill, St Philips and Barton Hill.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the classic 1979 comic sci-fi novel by Douglas Adams, has the hero Arthur Dent face both the demolition of his house by the local council and the destruction of Earth by the Vogons, an alien race installing an interstellar express route. 

In both cases, the proposals are difficult for the public to find.

Douglas Adams’s council hides its plans at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory in a unlit cellar with no stairs – protected by a sign saying Beware of the Leopard.

The Vogons put their plans on display in Alpha Centauri – which as they point out is “only four light years” from Earth.

Bristol’s Lib Dem party leader, Knowle councillor Gary Hopkins, accused the council leadership of not wanting to change the arena plans – which have still not been unveiled.

“It’s clear that they have no intention of changing anything,” he said. “There should have been local meetings for each area.

“You would expect any normal developer to consult with the community first, adjust their plans and then put in the planning application. 

“We have had no notification of an agenda item for the neighbourhood partnership on September 22. Even if they do turn up people will not have been notified. This shows complete disregard for real engagement. We are dealing with a Vogon.”

It is expected that a planning application will be submitted in late October or early November.

The long-awaited transport plan for the £91 million arena will not be published until the planning application is submitted. A report on the environmental impact of the arena will also be delayed until after the consultation period.

Mayor George Ferguson responded to criticism that the consultation was too short by saying: “Every change results in problems but you are in danger of overblowing them.”

He said he had not wanted the consultation running over the summer holidays, but there would be plenty of consultation.

“That’s what the planning process is for,” he said. Mr Ferguson was speaking last month as he welcomed James Wharton, minister for local government, to see the
£11.3 million bridge which is due to be pulled across the Avon soon to give access to Arena Island.

Mr Wharton welcomed news that the Temple Meads enterprise zone, of which the arena is a part, has created 2,000 jobs and is expected eventually to lead to 15,000 jobs.

But while few have raised arguments against the arena or the enterprise zone, the addition of  so many jobs will add to the pressure on the council to come up with a transport plan for the area that will not clog the roads.

Cllr Hopkins said that recent meetings at the council had convinced him that, so far, “the news about the transport plan is that there isn’t a transport plan”.

Deborah Joffe, the Green councillor for Windmill Hill, said: “My main impression is that there is a serious lack of joined-up thinking between different projects and overall city transport planners. 

“There is a will to improve sustainable transport routes along the Bath and Wells roads, but funding is not in the direct control of the council.  We need to ensure that carbon emissions are reduced, air quality is improved and roads are safer. All of this requires providing attractive alternatives to car driving”, she said.

• Mayor’s View: page 24