‘YTL’ arena plans go public

17 December 2019

The planning application documents for the Filton arena are now public. There are 151 of them. They create a clear picture of what is on offer if it receives planning permission in the new year.

Arena will benefit shareholders

It will be an arena that benefits the shareholders of YTL (the Malaysian corporation behind the bid) but not the people of Bristol. Like Cribbs Causeway, it will sit isolated from the city. Flashy and big but designed to make sure you don’t leave the site, it will be a single destination.

It will encourage people from across the region to drive to the venue, eat, drink, watch their gig, stay at a hotel on site and then go home, none the wiser about Bristol, its businesses, its culture or its communities.

Let’s be clear – as an arena it will probably be great – it will seat 17,000 people and be state-of-the-art. The designs look good and the development is full of ambition – YTL have taken a business opportunity and run with it. My comments are about the proposal – it is an arena for Bristol that will not actually benefit the city.

Throughout the documents, and what justifies YTL’s location, is that in order to make money YTL must house the food, drink, car parking and hotels that we use when visiting. This means it must be huge – the size of all three of the Brabazon hangars, in fact. And, of course, there are no sites of that size in the city centre, including the original site in Temple Meads.

Local people won’t benefit

This is a problem because the arena should be a strategic asset for Bristol. The reason Temple Meads remains the right site for the arena is because it benefits the city as a whole. When the Council voted for it unanimously they understood visitors could choose from the range of restaurants, bars and cafes, benefiting local businesses and spreading the wealth across communities. They understood it would create jobs in the south of Bristol and centre where unemployment is higher. And most importantly, visitors would experience and enjoy our city, building our reputation and profile across the region and beyond.

Expect a 30% increase in traffic

The transport study expects 80% of people to drive and an increase in car traffic of 30% because of the location. Being next to Temple Meads would have made it easier to travel by train and bus, improving our air quality and reducing congestion.

The opportunity to make our city a better place, by having an arena at its heart, is being lost. The Mayor chose to ignore a unanimous vote of the Council. Instead he has been blinded by the bright lights of the corporate machine.  He has forgotten that the arena is a chance to improve the city for everyone and not just the YTL bank balance with £56m of taxpayers’ money.

As the Green Party, we will highlight these issues during the planning process in the hope that the Council will do what is best for Bristol. If the Mayor had signed off the Temple Meads arena it would be open now and Bristolians would be enjoying the benefits. Instead we are left with a derelict site in the city centre and an out-of-town arena worthy of the 1970s.

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