Delight at Bristol Rovers stadium decision
THE final hurdle has been overcome for Bristol Rovers to go ahead with building their new stadium on the outskirts of the city.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has decided there is no reason to prevent Sainsbury's from building a new supermarket on the site of the Memorial Stadium in Horfield.
If he had "called in" the application for more scrutiny, it would have led to months of delay and uncertainty whether the supermarket could have gone ahead.
The club's chairman Nick Higgs said: "I am obviously delighted with this decision.
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"It means we are now on target to start building the new UWE Stadium in the summer."
The club hopes the £40million stadium will be ready in time for the start of the 2015/16 season.
Planning permission for the Sainsbury's supermarket was given by city councillors in January but it had to be put before Mr Pickles for a final decision because the proposed store was a departure from the agreed planning blueprint for the city.
Work will not start on the supermarket until the stadium is built.
The new 21,700-seat stadium, which will be built on land at Stoke Gifford owned by the University of the West of England, was given planning permission last year by South Gloucestershire Council.
The unique partnership with the university will not only provide facilities for students and a car park for them as well as fans on match days but also unlock an existing car park for redevelopment, which could see hundreds of homes and a retirement village built.
The new supermarket will employ about 350 staff, have more than 570 parking spaces and be bigger than Sainsbury's store in Filton and the Tesco Extra in Eastville. But the Sainsbury's store at Ashton Gate, which has already won planning permission, would be nearly twice as big if it goes ahead.
A total of 65 new homes will be built around the store, nearly half of them for families on low incomes.
South Gloucestershire Council leader John Calway said he had written to Mr Pickles urging him to recognise that developing the Memorial Stadium site was essential to fund the new stadium project.
He said: "We are confident that the new stadium will bring many benefits, not simply better facilities for supporters but also academic and local community facilities, and a much better location in relation to public transport, including bus, rail and planned rapid transit."