Talks put 10,000-seater Bristol arena back on the agenda
BRISTOL'S council leader Barbara Janke is having talks in Whitehall today which could open the door to a 10,000-seater arena eventually being built in the city.
Mrs Janke, who will meet with Cities Minister Greg Clarke, believes land near Temple Meads railway station could be used for a venue to stage rock concerts and other events.
But the key will be to convince the minister that the city should receive £25 million to provide state-of-the-art communications technology as well as ultrafast broadband.
If the money is released, then the city's Enterprise Zone at Temple Meads would become the hub of a "smart city" project and pave the way for an arena.
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Mrs Janke, who will be travelling to Whitehall with Enterprise chairman Colin Skellett, told the Evening Post: "We know Bristol needs an arena and we will be trying everything we can to achieve that.
"There is also the potential to have one on the site of the new Bristol City stadium so we have two possibilities, but they are both in the very early stages.
"Becoming a smart city would allow us, with the right data, to do all kinds of things – we could predict traffic flows and energy usage more efficiently, reduce wastage in all kinds of areas. The technology would be open to businesses and the community of people we have here who are intelligent and very skilled."
There had been plans for an arena on the former Bath Road diesel depot next to Temple Meads Station but the site has now been standing empty for more than a decade.
The decision by the South West Regional Development Agency to ditch plans for a 20,000-seat indoor arena on the site, after pumping £20 million into the project, was seen as the low point of the organisation's tenure. As a result the RDA, which the Government has wound up, was publicly criticised by the Government for wasting taxpayers' money.
The Government has promised eight of the country's top cities – including Bristol – the powers they need to attract private sector investment, create new jobs and trigger new prosperity.
Mrs Janke and Mr Skellett will be pitching Bristol's case to the minister in the hope of winning funding.
She said: "We're not just asking for big sums of money. We are focusing on being able to get more powers to achieve more in the long term.
"This is a really important day for us and my belief is that it will be the start of a number of positive events over the coming years."
Chancellor George Osborne has already named Bristol as one of ten cities that can bid for its share in the £100 million "super-connected cities" subsidy, aimed at ensuring universal access to 100MB per second internet links.
Mrs Janke will also be presenting the minister with a wishlist of other needs for the Bristol area. One of them is a new motorway junction off the M49 to create better access to the massive new distribution warehouses at Avonmouth and other emerging industries in the area.
She believes that improved flood defences on the Severn to create a new development zone at Avonmouth which could be linked to the nearby port, could create "one of the most economical port distribution locations in Europe".
The delegation will also be asking to be released from Town and Village Green legislation.
They hope that if a committee sitting in Bristol is given the power to grant or refuse town green status to green spaces, it would save upwards of £100,000 a year by removing the need for costly court hearings and other expenses associated with the legislation, as has been seen with the Ashton Vale town green saga still hanging in the balance at the High Court.
The Government has already struck deals with Liverpool and Manchester and Mr Clark is expected to come to a decision on Bristol's proposals in May.
Other items on the shopping list:
â Government funding for transport improvements
â Funding to help create jobs by improving skills among the unemployed
â Powers to deliver major transport schemes
â A public property board to make better use of buildings
â More job opportunities for the unemployed near the enterprise zone
â Providing more help for small and medium-size firms.