Bid to redevelop Bristol's ice rink
STUDENT accommodation provider Unite has submitted its planning application to redevelop Bristol's ice rink, due to close next month.
The rink would be demolished and replaced by single studio apartments and shared flats for more than 500 students at the Trenchard Street site.
As exclusively revealed in the Post, the historic rink, where Olympic champion Robin Cousins learned to skate, will close for good on October 31 as a result of the redevelopment of the 1960s building in the city centre.
Bristol-based Unite has owned the complex for ten years and has decided the time has come to press ahead with a scheme to redevelop the concrete building, which sits on the O2 concert venue.
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The decision to close the ice rink was met with dismay and anger from various groups including Bristol's ice hockey team, the Pitbulls.
However, Unite is adamant that its scheme will improve the neglected Trenchard Street area and open it up to other businesses. The firm, which is based in Bristol, specialises in converting buildings into student accommodation and owns several properties in the city centre.
Unite has 3,000 rooms in Bristol and believes there is demand for more thanks to the popularity of the city with prospective students and the quality of its two universities.
The company is ploughing £20 million into the project which could be the biggest development of its kind in the city over the next two years if it gets the go ahead.
It had considered including a smaller rink in the redevelopment but that idea has now been discarded.
Unite also wants to open up the side of the building and landscape the area. The company said the O2 Academy will stay open throughout the work.
Many of the groups using the rink, including the Bristol Pitbulls, formed the Ice Rink Users Group, which campaigned to keep the ice rink open.
After realising this may not happen the group then petitioned Bristol City Council to find them another venue.
Richie Hargreaves, coach of the Bristol Pitbulls, told the Post he was "disappointed" that the application had been submitted.
"We are losing the ice rink which is something beneficial to Bristol," he said.
He added: "With regards to the Pitbulls, we have managed to get some ice time at other rinks in the South West, so we will be able to complete the season, and we are still looking for another potential base in Bristol."
Unite development director James Hunt previously told the Post: "The building was starting to become expensive to maintain and we had to invest in it or risk it becoming too expensive to operate."
The firm hopes that if its bid is approved, the building will be ready for the academic year in 2014.