Saturday, 5 September 2009

£3.6 million public subsidy for new stadium?

The Bristol Blogger has commented on the fact that a key portion of the land that Bristol City Football Club are proposing for development as a supermarket is actually owned by the City Council.

It is in relation to this piece of land that I have submitted the following questions for the full council meeting scheduled for the 15th September;

In the planning application 09/03208/P for a food store at Ashton Gate, Bristol City Council are identified as holding the freehold title of part of the land proposed to be redeveloped; namely the car park between the stadium itself and Winterstoke Road - without this Council owned land the proposed retail development would appear to be unviable.

a) Can you confirm that this land is currently in council ownership?

b) Has a valuation been placed upon this land by Bristol City Council in the event of it being sold for redevelopment?

c) Will the valuation of the site be significantly greater with planning permission for a supermarket than for alternative uses, (eg housing and leisure)?

d) Does Bristol City Council intend to consult directly with local residents regarding the future use of this land prior to the 5th November when planning application 09/03208/P is scheduled to be determined?

To a certain extent I suspect that I already know that the answers to both a) and c) will be "yes" although I think that the differential involved in c) is not as high as people might suspect, and thus the answer might include all sorts of caveats about market conditions. Then again, it is likely that Dr Jon Rogers will be the executive member answering the questions and he does have a reputation for answering council questions with a straight Yes or No. I would also be amazed if the answer to b) is anything other than yes.

That brings us to d). I am hoping that Jon will respond with a straight Yes to this one as well. So far Bristol City Football Club have employed Trimedia to perform a "public consultation" exercise on their future plans for the Ashton Gate stadium. But many of us have serious concerns about how the response to this was interpreted. There are also concerns that other efforts to demonstrate local opinion have been undermined by the lobbying of those outside the area that will be most affected by the proposed superstore.

There is an opportunity here for the Liberal Democrats if they have the courage to grasp the nettle. An opportunity to demonstrate that, even in this age where trust in the democratic system has been undermined by the actions of so many of our elected representatives, that there still exists the ability for local communities to make their voice heard, and, more importantly, not just heard but responded to. In the face of tremendous pressure from third parties, this first-ever majority Liberal Democrat council can show that it isn't the same as those tired reactionary parties that have had control of this city for so long and that we, as law-abiding residents can, via the democratic process, make a difference to what is happening in our streets, our neighbourhoods, our community.

It is time to take the CON out of Consultation.


  1. The fans seem to think the local traders should stand or fall by market forces - if they are good enough they survive etc etc

    I presume they will therefore be adamant that the club should in no way receive any handouts from the council

  2. I suspect that, much like the rest of us, the fans are only in favour of market forces when it works out to their advantage.

    For example I doubt that many of them agreed with Martin Edwards, the one-time chairman of Manchester United, who complained twenty years ago that the smaller football clubs (like Bristol City) were not viable as businesses and ought to be "put to sleep". His argument was based on market forces as well, and that argument led to the setting up of the Premier League to exclude the smaller clubs and explains why Bristol City are, in the words of their own chief executive, losing 2 million per year.

  3. Another good post in whole excellent series of posts on this subject, well said Tony.

    Like Phil Michaels from FoE put it ‘The big issue is the gap between laws being made and being followed. There is a huge amount of European environmental legislation, but the question is how much is being properly complied with at the national level.’

    The Aarhus Convention is supposed to be legally binding on Britain, and should ‘promote effective public participation at the appropriate stage, and while options are still open.’

    So much for that in Bristol at least. The council deserve to stand in a dock several times over!

    020 7404 1030

  4. Tony

    technically as a resident of South Gloucestershire are you entitled to ask questions at Bristol City Council? :-)


  5. Paul

    I asked Democratic Services that very question and was told that it wasn't a problem.

    If it was, I am sure somebody else would have stepped forward to ask the questions.

    In relation to this; I understand that you don't need to be resident in the city to stand for election as a councillor; that a majority of those who have signed the e-petition in favour of the development concerned live outside the city; as well as a minority who have signed the e-petition against it; the council itself has passed several motions expressing its opinions on developments beyond the city boundaries; and the company that will operate the new food store if the planning application is successful is also resident outside the city. Conversely, many of the existing businesses that are likely to be negatively affected by a new food store are, of course, resident in the city.

    In fact, the whole point of my questions is that the residents themselves who live in the community for whom the proposed store is intended to be a "benefit" have not had a clear, unbiased and open opportunity to say whether they want this "benefit" or not. They may well turn out to be in favour - but they should, at least, be asked properly, should they not?

    Of course, if there was some elected, or prospective politician living in the city who was willing to stand up and ask these sort of questions without worrying about their election prospects that would be better still - but there is only so much Charlie Bolton can do on his own.....