Council to benefit from £1 million as new Sainsbury's approved
THE decision to allow Sainsbury's to build a supermarket on the site of the Memorial Stadium will mean a windfall of more than £1 million for the city council.
Under new Government rules, the supermarket chain will have to pay a levy after winning consent to go ahead with the new store at the current home of Bristol Rovers and Bristol Rugby in Horfield.
This amounts to more than £1.3 mil- lion which the council can spend on major projects such as a new school, rapid bus route or a swimming pool for example.
Zoe Willcox, the council's chief planning officer, outlined the Community Infrastructure Levy at the meeting which decided to allow the new store to be built.
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She said that £200,000 would go to the area's Neighbourhood Partnership which could decide how best to spend the money.
Sainsbury's would also get a discount on the amount of levy it pays because 40 per cent of the 65 new homes which will be built around the store will be for low-income families.
These reductions will still leave the council picking up more than £1 million which the mayor George Ferguson can ultimately decide how to spend when drawing up his annual budget.
But he will not be able to use the money for running existing services – only capital projects which are agreed by councillors.
The new levy should not be confused with Section 106 agreements – legally-binding pledges by developers to pay for improvements to mitigate the effects of new build projects.
Sainsbury's will be paying nearly £500,000 towards a range of measures to ease traffic congestion in the area.
It will also make a contribution of £202,500 – which includes the cost of a full-time town centre manager – to offset the impact of the store on existing traders in Gloucester Road.
Air quality will be monitored in the area and if pollution exceeds agreed levels, the supermarket chain will pay an annual penalty of £50,000 for a maximum of five years.
Meanwhile, jubilant Bristol Rovers' fans are celebrating after the planning decision which opens the way for a new £40 million stadium on UWE land at Stoke Gifford.
Brian Seymour-Smith, Supporters' Club director, said: "This is the most exciting time in the history of the club.
"The new stadium opens up massive opportunities – not just for the club but for the region as a whole."
He said clubs such as Brighton and Swansea have emerged as top clubs after building new grounds and there was no reason why Rovers could not follow their success.
Supporters' Club chairman Jim Chappell paid tribute to the work of club chairman Nick Higgs, finance director Toni Watola and the rest of the board for their work on the stadium plans.
He said the Sainsbury's decision moved the club towards a goal which everyone at the club had been working towards since the dark days at Twerton Park.
He said: "We just have to hope that that Secretary of State will now approve the decision made by the councillors. It's hard to believe that we are so close now. It's going to take a few days to fully sink in."
Dennis Payter, a Rovers' fan for more than 50 years who lives in Keynsham, said: "After years of failing to find a ground since leaving Eastville in 1986, I never thought this would happen, especially in today's economic climate.
"I have seen planning applications for new grounds at Mangotsfield and Avonmouth both fail and as the years have gone by, I never thought a new stadium would become a reality."
He said the partnership with the University of the West of England which is providing the land was a great opportunity for everyone to benefit.
He said it made a big difference that club chairman Nick Higgs had a successful background in the construction industry and therefore knew what was needed in order to make the stadium project work.
Gloucester Road traders fought against the Sainsbury's plan because they believe it is too big and will have a negative impact on their businesses.
Traders' chairman Dan Whelan said: "The measures to mitigate the impact just don't go far enough to help us.
"In two years' time, I will have to do everything I can to try to offset the damage of the new store.
"It's all very well the councillors and council officers saying the damage will not be that bad but once you've got one or two shops going to the wall, it can have a very bad effect on the rest of us.
"I want to see Rovers get a new stadium but Gloucester Road traders should not have to suffer as a result."
Work on the new UWE stadium will start in the summer and it should be ready for use at the start of the 2015 football season.
The Sainsbury's store will not be built until the stadium is finished.
The Sainsbury's decision will be passed to the Secretary of State for a final ruling but this is expected to be a formality. He has 21 days to respond.
Ben Littman, Sainsbury's regional development manager, said: "We are delighted with Wednesday night's planning decision and would again like to thank the public for helping to shape the application.
"The application is now going forward to the Secretary of State for ratification. Meanwhile we will be discussing the detail of the Section 106 contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy with local authority officers."
In a statement, Bristol Rugby said: "Bristol Rugby have agreed terms to remain at the Memorial Stadium for the 2013/14 campaign.
"The club will then consider their long-term options over the next season."