REVEALED: Dramatic alternative plans for Bristol's Arena Island .. sorry, Temple Island with homes, hotel and conference centre

August 23 2018

PLANS for a dramatic alternative use for the city centre arena site next to Temple Meads have been revealed this morning (August 23) by investment giant Legal & General. Proposed is a large conference centre and exhibition space, a 345-room hotel, 550 new homes (including 220 affordable homes), and two major “Grade A” office buildings.

REVEALED: THE ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR THE ARENA SITE

Legal & General Temple Island

PLANS for a dramatic alternative use for the city centre arena site next to Temple Meads have been revealed this morning (August 23) by investment giant Legal & General.

Proposed is a large conference centre and exhibition space, a 345-room hotel, 550 new homes (including 220 affordable homes), and two major “Grade A” office buildings.

The picture shows 10 blocks of up to 24 storeys in the Legal & General scheme. Behnd is the University of Bristol campus which would sit right next to it, containing student accommodation blocks of up to 21 floors. 

The scheme makes clear why mayor Marvin Rees has been so keen to examine alternative uses for the island site – which was being called Arena Island until the mayor quietly started calling it Temple Island.

The news will serve to raise tension still further between the majority of councillors who want an arena in the city centre and the mayor, who says he must choose the best use of the site for the good of the city.

In an almost unprecedented move, councillors have called an extraordinary meeting of the full council to discuss the arena decision. Full council – and also a meeting of the council's scrutiny board – will examine the arena controversy on September 3, a day before the cabinet will discuss the mayor's proposal for the island site on September 4. Papers for the full council meeting will be released today. 

Until today, many were arguing that there was no flesh to the alternative plans for Temple Island. Several have said that if the mayor rules out a city centre arena – leaving the way open to a rival venue in Filton – his decision could be at risk of legal action.

The backers of the council's own plan for a Temple Meads arena, Arena Island Ltd, say they have been unable to meet the mayor to discuss their scheme, and are at a loss why he appears to favour the rival, private sector scheme of Malaysian firm YTL.

Internal emails published under Freedom of Information requests show the council appointed an official to "support" the YTL plan. The mayor met YTL bosses three times in the last year.

Today's revelations came too late to be included in the Totterdown edition of South Bristol Voice, which is delivered from today. The Bedminster edition, which is delivered from Tuesday, will have updated coverage. 

Legal & General says its plans would help bolster finances at cash-strapped Bristol city council. Because the site is in an enterprise zone, the council can keep all the business rates it raises there, instead of handing some to the Treasury.

"The scheme would help build a resilient city centre offer for Bristol in the face of current structural changes in retailing, culture and leisure, which demands a different offer from towns and city centres," said Legal & General.

The plan has been drawn up by Zaha Hadid Architects. Legal & General has masterminded similar schemes in Cardiff and Newcastle and has already invested £240m in central Bristol, including a £70m civil service hub to the north of Temple Meads station.

But a Temple Meads arena would also do much to bolster city centre shops, hotels and restaurants, say its backers. Putting an arena at Filton would mean much of this trade would leak to Cribbs Causeway and South Gloucestershire.