South Bristol Voice readers have their say after mayor rules out arena next to Temple Meads

September 28 2018

Readers call for new scrutiny of arena decision, and suggest some alternatives

Readers wrote to South Bristol Vice to express their opinions after the September 4 decision by mayor Marvin Rees’s cabinet to rule out an arena on the site long reserved for it at Temple Meads.

 The letters had to be edited in our print version – here are some of them in full. 


This decision needs scrutiny 

Open letter to Marvin Rees and members of the cabinet

I’M AN ordinary BS3 resident, unconnected to an organisation or political party.  I’m dismayed you have shelved the plans for Temple Meads arena, despite overwhelming public opinion and councillor support for the site.

The arena proposal was massively welcomed by us over 20 years ago. Marvin, you know it’s more than just a ‘concert venue’. It’s a multipurpose arts and events space for local, regional and national projects all year round. It will bring invaluable economic benefits to our city centre’s businesses new and old, as well as boosting the surrounding areas. New innovative ventures will pop up around the arena, attracting fresh investment and creation in the tech and creative industries, and in other supportive businesses and feeder services.

The Temple arena will boost our city’s wellbeing, and improve mental health and nurture community cohesion. We live in an era of ongoing disconnect as the digital world gradually replaces everyday human exchanges.There is nothing quite like a live event to unite in a positive life-affirming way!  

As the arena beds in and the south and central Bristol areas evolve and respond, it can’t fail but to create a ton of fresh and relevant employment opportunities long term – it will become a vibrant progressive area that inspires and trains our young people for the future. They deserve our investment.

A Temple arena sits comfortably with Bristol’s cultural contribution to music and the arts. It also fits perfectly with our global reputation as a successful, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking city, not afraid to take creative risks. I believe Bristol attracts investment and attention because it’s a healthy mix of independent thought, some cultural anarchy, and a lot of awesome hardworking pragmatic people. We deliver.  

A Temple arena sends out the right signal. It creates economic stability and wealth for our city and its people long term, for decades to come. 

How could the arena be pitched against building a conference centre, a five-star hotel and some tall towers? These generate minimal contact with the surrounding city and its people. It fragments and disconnects. It brings wealth to the few with little return. It’s short-term and shiny. The percentage of ‘affordable’ housing proposed here too is never truly affordable, and is it for who and how much.  Legal & General, your preferred developer, salivated in 2016 that land they’d acquired near Temple Meads was “…well suited to the Build-To-Rent product – being heavily weighted to young, multiskilled professionals”. They don’t strike me as a council-partner committed to innovative low-income housing provision for residents in need of community and space.

I feel your lack of vision and trust in Bristol is worrying. The absence of some strategic understanding of the proven commercial benefits (and offshoots) that creative industries bring to a city as a whole long term is devastating. Your declaration that the Temple arena is simply a “vanity project” is inexplicable. Opportunities like the Temple arena are rare, and nationally accepted to be the absolute right decision for a city such as ours. 

The decision to halt the Temple arena is not democracy as I see it. I hope going against the vote of the councillors and the will of the people will be legally challenged. I hope the dealings with YTL will be legally challenged. 

I hope the lack of contact and regular dismissal of other interested parties’ proposals and ideas will be challenged. I hope there will be scrutiny around the hiring by YTL of Barra Mac Ruairi (BCC’s ex-strategic director for the Temple arena project) in 2017. 

I hope the powers given to a Bristol mayor will be reviewed or abolished.

Name supplied, BS3


We should remember this when we vote

I HAVE been following your reports on the arena saga in SBV with great interest. On September 4 the mayor cancelled the Bristol arena, thus breaking his election promise to the people of Bristol. Instead of delivering the arena, he has delivered failure. The Arena Island site will be wasted on an eyesore that nobody wants. I do not recall Bristol crying out for another conference facility.

Any talk of an arena in Filton is redundant. It will never be built. Bristolians who wish to attend arena events will still have to travel to other cities. This is good news for coach companies so, to be fair to the mayor, his failure is not bad news for everyone.

Many UK cities have built arenas for their citizens. They might be wondering why Bristol cannot do the same. A big part of the answer must be that Bristol has politicians who are not fit to hold thee offices they occupy. This is a lesson for all us to remember they next time they ask us to vote for them.

C Hughes, Bedminster 


Why not a market that serves us all?

SINCE we now have a vacant Temple Island wouldn’t it be great to have it as a community facility? What about a large square indoor market like St George’s Market in Belfast, which includes stalls from food to household, from crafts to vintage, with cafés scattered around serenaded by folk groups: a vibrant atmosphere for people to meet and do some alternative shopping. 

Outside could be artisan spaces, small studios for artists and craftsmen to practice and sell their work (like at Frome’s Black Swan Arts). And around this a landscaped park, with playgrounds and gardens.  People could walk to the ferries to reach the Centre and the harbourside, and in the other direction have a link to the Paintworks.

It would be a shame to fill the space with high rise blocks. Unfortunately the city’s present leadership seems determined to raise the skyline of Bristol, here and in Bedminster. 

Bristol is not London or New York.  It has its own low rise charm as many northern European cities do, and with its river and interesting centre and the accessible surrounding countryside it’s just right as it is. Let’s try to preserve its appeal to all ages.

Pat Berman

Lower Knowle