It is widely considered that Bristol should have a venue to enable large concerts and other events to be hosted in the city. Sounds fairly simple but, as with many other similar ventures in the city, the road to fruition is an extremely rocky one! Normally such a building development would be of only passing interest to FoSBR but, in this case, the transport issues associated with it are quite profound for the city.
A plan for a Bristol Arena at Temple Meads first proposed.
Original Arena scheme shelved.
Bristol Mayor George Ferguson revives scheme.
Contractor found and plans approved by Bristol City Council (BCC) for arena to be built on the site of an old diesel depot by Temple Meads station.
Scheme backed by a Government support package: the Homes and Community Agency (HCA), which owns the Arena site at Temple Meads, transfers ownership to BCC; this transfer is supported by £5.4m from the Department of Communities and Local Government. In addition the HCA invests £11.3m in a new bridge across the River Avon, connecting the Arena site to the rest of the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone – this is completed in 2015. Subsequently, some wags have called it ‘the bridge to nowhere’.
Things seem to be going well for this proposed 12,000 seat stadium but there are rumblings about parking at the site. The Council claim that plans for the arena will not include an “expensive” dedicated car park. However, the people of Totterdown, particularly, are worried that the Arena will bring in a large amount of traffic to their already completely congested streets.
Despite statements from Mayor Ferguson that all traffic issues will be sorted out without any new parking provision, the Council decide to consider a 480 space car park on Bath Road.
End of 2016
The original cost for the Arena was £95m which included nearly £79.6m for the main construction contract. The French engineering company, Bouygues UK, worked as a consultant for the project as preferred tenderer to construct the Arena. However, the Council is unable to agree a final price with them and so they pull out. Buckingham Group Contracting is appointed to deliver pre-construction services and give a price to build the Arena.
Bristol City Council announce an (increased) projected budget for the Arena of £123.5m. Funding for this will come from the Economic Development Fund (£53m), operator contribution and income (£42.5m) and infrastructure funding associated with the wider Temple Meads East project (£28m).
Buckingham Group then offer to build the Arena for a FIXED price of £110M but, despite this, the new Mayor Marvin Rees claims that building the Arena to its current design on the proposed site is likely to cost significantly more than the budget – although the precise target figure was commercially sensitive and so was confidential.
Project put on hold. About £10m has already been spent on design and consultancy.
To complicate matters, YTL, who now own the Filton airfield site, express interest in hosting a 16,000 seater Arena within the old Brabazon Hangar that forms part of their large development site at Filton just within the boundary of Bristol. YTL says it will develop the Brabazon hangar into a sports venue, exhibition space or conference centre regardless of whether the Arena is sited elsewhere.
Interestingly YTL, who also own Wessex Water, have a 50% stake in a company that builds and operates a high speed rail link in Malaysia. It is rumoured that YTL are prepared to pay the costs of reopening the Henbury Spur were the arena to be located here – though they have stated that this is not the case. However they have previously persuaded the West of England authorities to move the North Filton station closer to their development (and also closer to the Brabazon Hangar) and to re-route MetroBus through their site.
Mayor Rees confirms his decision to cancel the Bristol Arena project at Temple Island behind Bristol Temple Meads.
The Brabazon Hangar option has created controversy, especially as the Temple Meads site had seemed to be the only game in town.
Karin Smyth MP (Bristol South) and Thangam Debbonaire MP (Bristol West) warn that a change of location to Filton will create a new ‘town centre’ on the northern fringe. Ms Smyth considers that Bristol South, which is home to some of the most deprived areas of the city, needs the decent job opportunities and apprenticeships that could be provided by an Arena at Temple Meads – accessible to people living in Bristol South.
Darren Jones MP (Bristol North West) has supported the Brabazon site on the proviso that it is accompanied by a large programme of “road and rail improvements” to prevent congestion. Jones notes the site’s proximity to the motorways and Cribbs Causeway and the proposed Henbury Spur link to Temple Meads. As well as the apparently lower cost of development here, the location and relative ease of road access and availability of parking, especially in comparison to Temple Meads, are considered to be the key factors by those supporting the Brabazon site. The site is also supported by the leader of Bristol’s Conservative group, Mark Weston.
However those opposing the Brabazon site see these issues as a major concern and exactly why it should be opposed. Many argue that the West of England authorities should be promoting a modal shift from private to public transport (and need to in order to tackle climate change) and such a scheme would have the opposite effect, leading to more car journeys and new road building in an area that is already congested. Additionally, a Brabazon Arena would not be within easy reach of the dame numerous (and varied) leisure and accommodation facilities as a city centre location.
YTL host two Massive Attack concerts in a temporary venue (Steel Yard) near the Brabazon hangar. This is widely interpreted as a demonstration that YTL has the organisational ability to successfully run large events.
Summer and Autumn 2019
YTL host drop-in sessions for people to find out about their plans to repurpose the iconic hangars in Filton as part of a public consultation programme.
Their website summarises their vision:
Our vision is to put Bristol on the world stage for live music and entertainment by creating a visionary venue with people at the heart, and attracting global events.YTL
We plan to repurpose the historic Brabazon hangars – the birthplace of Concorde and the home of supersonic. One arena, three spaces, the hangars will house a new and unique centre for entertainment: the Central hangar: housing the ‘main stage’ where people assemble to enjoy world class performances and events; the East hangar: a flexible, open space, creating a ‘Festival Hall’ for exhibitions, trade shows, or as a warm-up area, or additional break-out space to compliment and support the activities in the Central hangar; the West hangar: ‘The Hub’, the heartbeat of the development and home to local businesses and organisations. It will offer a vibrant mix of restaurants, bars, family and leisure activities and work spaces to create an exciting and lively 365 day a year venue.
With new public transport infrastructure programmed to open in 2021, the proposed new arena will be within a stone’s throw of the city centre. It will source local products and services, create 500 new jobs, and inject in excess of £700 million into the local economy over the next 25 years.
YTL submitted their planning applications to Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire County Councils and stated they hope to open the arena doors by 2022.
Following a three-and-a-half hour meeting of Bristol City Council’s planning committee, YTL’s plans for an arena at Filton Airfield are approved.
We’re delighted that the council has entrusted us with this brilliant opportunity to put Bristol on the world stage. It is a huge step forward for our plans. We’re incredibly grateful to all those who have supported us and encouraged us on this journey.Andrew Billingham, Managing Director YTL Arena Bristol
Concerns remain however that the plans are too reliant on the private motor car.
FOSBR have remained neutral on the arena location but will be campaigning hard for public transport, particularly the Henbury Loop and our proposals for further new stations.