Ice rink demolition criticised as 'spineless'
THE Bristol Civic Society has criticised councillors who voted to demolish the city's ice rink for not acting in the city's interests.
Dave Cave, a member of the society, stressed that clause BCS12 in the council's core strategy states "existing community facilities should be retained, unless ... an alternative provision is made".
By failing to address the policy at a planning committee meeting last week, he accused councillors – who voted unanimously in favour of replacing the rink with 442 student flats – of not balancing Bristol's needs.
But Mr Cave did find time to praise part of the development for improving the area around the O2 Academy – which will remain in place.
He told The Post: "Bristol Civic Society notes that the Development Control Central committee voted unanimously in favour of the application to demolish the ice rink and build 442 student rooms. The society welcomes the improved contribution towards improvements in the public realm from the developers, now put at some £570,000.
"However, the decision effectively means the end of permanent ice sport activities in Bristol, since no funds are in place to contribute to a replacement facility, despite the fact that the developer stands to gain as much as £100 million during the lifetime of the development.
"We are bitterly disappointed that the councillors did not adhere to their own planning policy.
"BCS12 states that no community facility shall be removed unless there is no need for it or alternative provision has been made. The councillors did not even debate this aspect or attempt to put forward the interests of the people of Bristol.
"Some of the developers have offered an alternative site for an ice rink should further investment be forthcoming. This is a car park at the rear of the O2 Academy and in my opinion does not constitute an appropriate alternative facility. It is a windowless façade, more appropriate for a gym or nightclub than a lively family-friendly ice rink."
Mr Cave spoke at the committee meeting last Tuesday. He warned the councillors that demolishing the ice rink could affect "Bristol's standing as a regional centre".
Chaired by Alex Woodman (Lib Dem) the planning committee of Christian Martin (Lib Dem), Henry Havvock (Lib Dem), Margaret Hickman (Labour), Derek Pickup (Labour) and Alex Pearce (Conservative) voted unanimously in favour of the new development after little discussion. After the decision was made, Mr Cave, branded the committee as "spineless".
He told The Post that he had hoped the council would argue for more cash to cover replacement facilities.
He said: "I was disappointed there wasn't more discussion. Viability has got nothing to do with it if you consider how much (developer) Unite will be profiting in the long run."
Council spokesman James Easy said officers explained that a combination of concerns over viability plus the smaller leisure space that is being provided in the plans were the reasons behind the decision.
In the full planning report where officers recommended to councillors that they should approve the new development, it said: "The viability report indicates that substantial investment is required to keep the Ice Rink operational.
"The conversion... would involve significant investment in this site and one that would impact upon viability or retaining an Ice Rink facility in this building.
"There is no reason to dispute these findings and this has an impact on the medium term of an ice rink facility operating from this site.
"In terms of a redevelopment to provide a new ice rink facility at this site, the viability report concludes that it would not be commercially viable.
"In respect of alternative provision of a leisure facility, the proposals seek to change the use of the existing underutilised car park at the rear of the 02 Academy.
"This would provide 1,316 square metres of leisure space.
"This leisure space is much less than the existing ice rink (4,059 square metres) and this is a material consideration."