New public inquiry expected as stadium agreement reached
A FORMAL agreement has been reached between the city council and town green campaigners over the ending of legal proceedings on the future of Ashton Vale.
The Post exclusively revealed last month that the council had taken the shock decision to stop contesting a judicial review case.
Since then, both sides have been meeting to agree terms and these talks have now ended.
The council has now submitted a consent order to the High Court to formally end the proceedings.
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A new public inquiry is expected to follow on the future of the northern part of the 42-acre site, which includes the former landfill tip on which Bristol City FC wants to build its new £92 million stadium.
Campaigners mounted a legal challenge after councillors decided last June to register only the southern area of the site as a town green – effectively giving the go-ahead to the club to build its stadium.
The campaigners argued that new evidence gathered by the club should be tested under cross-examination at an inquiry, mounting a judicial review which led to hearings in London.
The council argued that the review should be quashed because the anonymous resident who signed the legal papers decided to withdraw. But the judge ruled that a full hearing should go ahead. His decision convinced the council that the cost and time delay of continuing to contest the case was fruitless.
It is almost certain that councillors will abide by the recommendations an independent inspector will put forward after the next public inquiry. If they decided not to, it would probably lead to yet another legal wrangle over the future of the site.
Residents applied for town green status on the land to stop any development. But Bristol and North Somerset councils both gave planning permission for the new stadium, which the club argues would create hundreds of jobs and bring millions of pounds of new investment to South Bristol.
A council spokesman said: "Upon the court's approval of the order, the council intends to seek submissions from the parties before finalising the next steps in relation to the northern part of the site.
"No decisions have been made on this process, however we shall make every attempt to move to this next stage as speedily as possible."
A public inquiry is likely to last several days with the inspector publishing their findings some months later.