Home win for Bristol Rovers as Memorial Stadium plan backed
BRISTOL Rovers won 9-4 last night – in a debate over selling off their current ground for a supermarket to help fund a £40 million stadium.
Most of the mayoral candidates in a hustings organised by The Post and held at the club's ground in Horfield said they were in favour of the move.
Four candidates, Daniella Radice (Green), Tom Baldwin (Trade Unionists Against Cuts), Spud Murphy (Independent) and Rich Fisher (Independent) were effectively against because they opposed a Sainsbury's supermarket at the Memorial Stadium.
Ms Radice said: "We don't need any more supermarkets here. If one is allowed to go ahead, it will cause traffic congestion.
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"What we are crying out for is more accommodation and housing."
George Ferguson (Bristol 1st) who opposed a Sainsbury's at Ashton Gate said it was a different issue for Rovers.
He said the club was relying heavily – about 75 per cent – on the funding from the new store to help build the stadium and therefore "would not want to stand in the club's way".
Mr Ferguson said the difference with City was that it was a much bigger store – and he claimed the club only needed ten per cent of the money towards its new stadium.
Geoff Gollop (Conservative) said: "In order to develop its new stadium, the club needs the funding from a supermarket and therefore I support the proposal (for a Sainsbury's)."
Labour's Marvin Rees said yes, he was personally in favour.
Neil Maggs (Respect), Owain George (Independent), Philip Pover (Independent), Tony Britt (Independent), Stoney Garnett (Independent), and Tim Collins (Independent) also gave their support by saying yes.
Jon Rogers (Lib Dem) said he was in favour of "both stadiums going ahead" but did not give a 'Yes' or a 'No' to the question.
On another issue, Mr Rees found himself under fire after revealing that his cabinet would be entirely made up of Labour councillors.
Every other candidate who spoke made it clear they preferred a cross-party cabinet which would rely on councillors with the best experience and skills – not their political make-up.
But Mr Rees said it was crucial to understand that the role of mayor was not just about running the council – but bringing together all the component parts of the city in order to take it forward.
He therefore advocated a "mayor's office" which would draw on experts and representatives from all parts of society to advise him, if elected, on key issues.
But Mr Gollop said: "Marvin has just given us a wonderful explanation of how the mayor would use a new way of governing and then explain that he would do this by using old methods."
He said that although he was labelled as a Tory, if he was elected, he would be representing the whole city and therefore it would be incumbent on him to draw on councillors from all parties.
When Mr Garnett was asked how he would pick his cabinet, he replied: "Wisely".
Perhaps the biggest applause went to the last speaker of the night, who spoke from the back of the packed room on the future of Filton Airfield.
Richard Posner, 35, a barrister from Brentry, said: "If any of you don't think you have the authority and stature to make a difference at national level, I really worry about the long-term vision of our city."
Some of the candidates had made the point that although they wanted to see the airfield saved from closure, they realised their powers as mayor would be limited, partly because most of the site was within a neighbouring council's boundary and it was up to the owners (BAE Systems) if they wanted to close it.
Afterwards, a member of the audience, businessman Kevin Staples, 48, from Stoke Bishop, told The Post he had changed his mind on his second preference vote as a result of the hustings.
A survey commissioned by The Post and published yesterday revealed that the outcome of next Thursday's election would almost certainly be decided by the second choice votes.
Vicki Tyler-Jones, 59, a part-time carer from Horfield, said she voted against a mayor for Bristol in the referendum. But she said she would vote next week, although the hustings had not changed her mind about her choices.
Birthday Party candidate Dave Dobbs did not attend the hustings.