Bristol City: It's business as usual despite Ashton Vale stadium saga
BRISTOL City has insisted it is business as usual despite the latest twist in the saga surrounding the club's proposed new stadium.
As reported in yesterday's Post the city council has decided to drop its defence of the legal challenge over the future of Ashton Vale – the site earmarked for the purpose-built stadium.
The council said it withdrew its defence of the decision by councillors last summer to split the site – allowing for Bristol City to build the all-seater stadium in the northern half of the site while the rest of the land was kept as a town green.
As a result an independent inspector will now hold a public inquiry into the future of the site.
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The council was defending a judicial review which had found that only half of the site was protected from development under town green status. But the council decided to pull out of the process after taking legal advice from its solicitors.
The decision means that the legal process is now completely in the hands of the firm which owns the land at Ashton Vale.
Bristol City chairman and benefactor Stephen Lansdown is one of the main shareholders of the company.
Despite the latest development in the saga Bristol City is insisting that little has changed in its position.
A spokesman said: "At the moment we are focussing on making our preparations for next season.
"As far as the club is concerned it is always going to be business as usual and the main focus will be preparing the team for next season.
"We are now focussing on the summer and the preparations for next season."
Although the latest development is a further complication in the long-running saga it may actually mean that the issue will be settled sooner than previously expected.
The club is making some changes and improvements to Ashton Gate but insists it is still looking to move to a new home as soon as possible.
Peter Abraham, the councillor who chaired the Public Rights of Way Committee that made the decision last year to split the site, said he was "saddened and frustrated" by a "seemingly never-ending series of legal challenges".
He added: "This is all the more disappointing as our decision preserved indefinitely 20 acres of land for local people to use as recreational open space, whilst leaving the other half of the land including the former tip free for development.
"Although a High Court Judge in an earlier hearing urged compromise, it is very disappointing that those concerned have preferred instead to run up ever-growing lawyers' bills – many of which will ultimately be carried by the taxpayer.
" I support this pragmatic decision today so as to begin to draw a line under this matter."
The announcement from the council came just a day after Bristol City's chairman Colin Sexstone revealed that he is standing down from his post at the club.
Mr Sextone went on to talk of his sadness that the dream of building a new stadium may never happen.
He said: "Sadly, it's down to just a few people and a number of outside organisations who have lost Bristol the chance to have a new stadium.
"It was going to be such a wonderful development opportunity but now that could be gone and that is so, so sad."
No one was available from the Save Ashton Vale Environment Group (Save) to comment on the development.