First look at Ashton Vale new homes proposed as part of stadium redevelopment at Ashton Gate

December 21 2018
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ASHTON Gate stadium could become the focus of a new enterprise zone for South West Bristol if ambitious plans for a basketball stadium, hotels and conference centre come off.

Ashton Gate & Cumberland Vilage

But only if public bodies get transport improvements under way...

ASHTON Gate stadium could become the focus of a new enterprise zone for South West Bristol if ambitious plans for a basketball stadium, hotels and conference centre come off.

That was the suggestion of Martin Griffiths, chairman of stadium owner Ashton Gate Ltd, as he unveiled new images of the £100 million transformation at a public meeting on December 11.

Ashton Gate is already one of the city’s largest employers with more than 1,000 staff. Hundreds more could be added, if not thousands, says Mr Griffith, if Phase II of the stadium takes off.

But first the city has to buy-in to plans to make Ashton Gate the centre of a new transport hub – and so far there is no sign of that happening.

Mr Griffiths wants to see the Metrobus stop moved so it’s within sight of the stadium, a new Ashton Gate station built, and the Long Ashton Park & Ride brought into use on matchdays.

The stadium has produced proposals for all three – but so far there is no movement on any.

“There’s a lot of interest in bringing the Metrobus stop to Ashton Gate and building a railway station. We think it’s a no-brainer,” Mr Griffiths said.

But he admitted that there is no sign of the councils in charge of Metrobus wanting to move the stop from its isolated and out-of-sight location at Paxton Drive, which is little used.

Nor has Bristol city council made visible progress untying the legal knots that restrict the Park & Ride.

And Network Rail shows no signs of approving a new station – even a simple platform for a shuttle service.

Feedback to the stadium plans has been mainly positive from councillors and community groups alike. Philip Clark, a Bower Ashton resident visiting the consultation event, praised the stadium Phase II as “brilliant” – but slammed the public sector’s transport planning as “not joined up.”

“They put the Metrobus stop miles away,” he said. “It should have been thought through.”

Mr Clark is pleased with the 24-hour resident parking scheme in Bower Ashton – something some residents nearer the stadium would like to see. But he admitted that its introduction had split residents in Bower Ashton and some are still not talking to each other, five years after permits were introduced.

For the stadium, Mr Griffiths said the biggest issue residents had brought to him was calls for more enforcement against dangerous parking on matchdays.

This is something the stadium can’t do, he said – it’s down to the council and the police.

So far Ashton Gate has not been willing to fund a match day parking scheme, which could lead to resident permits. But it has paid for special supporter bus routes, five for City football games and four for Bears rugby matches.

The stadium has also built a cycle stand for bike-sharing service YoBike, and urges supporters via its websites to use public transport. It also works with Highways England to use electronic motorway signs to point fans towards park and ride services.

Mr Griffiths was diplomatic about the difficulties of persuading the council, Metrobus and Network Rail to back the transport improvements. “It’s obviously logical, but I don’t underestimate the difficulty involved,” he said.

The Metrobus stop is simply in the wrong place, he said. “At Paxton Drive, you don’t know it’s there, and it’s not lit, when it could be right in the middle of residential and employment areas. We will keep pressing to get that done.”

He believes the £100m plan could also kickstart investment in the Ashton Vale Road industrial estate, which is underused.

The stadium also wants to invest in the road network, redesigning Winterstoke Road from the flyover to the Sainsbury’s roundabout. “Our consultants think the current layout is very inefficient, and with some design work, it can be made to move a lot more freely,” he said.