Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone could bring jobs and new arena to Bristol
BRISTOL'S economy could be transformed and thousands of new jobs created under a new masterplan revealed today by the Post.
The city's Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone will be officially launched tomorrow – and with it, a blueprint for the Temple Meads area which includes a complete revamp of the city's main station and plans for a long-awaited indoor arena.
The team behind the ambitious scheme has come up with a 25-year vision designed to breathe new life into large chunks of the city and create a vibrant business, commercial and shopping district.
New squares and public spaces, a marina, roads and infrastructure are included.
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The zone, drawn up by a partnership involving business leaders and the city council, comes with perks such as relaxed planning conditions, concessions on business rates and access to ultra-fast broadband.
The team behind the scheme wants to use potential income from the area to raise £200 million worth of funding to help pay for infrastructure work.
The scheme will be officially launched tomorrow at an event at a temporary circus tent next to the station, which will be used to stage events throughout the summer. The aim is to give the new area a running start and attract interest from investors.
The creation of the Temple Meads Enterprise Zone was first announced by Chancellor George Osborne in last year's Budget.
The ultimate aim is to create 17,000 new jobs and bring 400 new firms to the city over the next two decades. The city's Local Enterprise Partnership, the organisation which is masterminding the scheme, has high hopes that the BBC will move its Bristol operation from Whiteladies Road on to vacant land next to the station and discussions have been taking place for several months.
The other major element of the scheme is a plan to build a 12,000-seat indoor arena on vacant land behind the station. The former diesel depot site was originally owned by the now-axed South West Regional Development Agency, which pumped £20 million into the project, only to then decide it was not viable.
But the LEP, which has taken over the agency's development role in Bristol, has come up with a cheaper alternative arena scheme and says several operators are already interested.
The planned redevelopment of Temple Meads station has been included in the scheme and the idea is to completely refurbish the historic building. A new platform is planned in Brunel's original Passenger Shed for the service linking Bristol to London and the aim is to shift the main entrance of the building to where the long-stay car park now stands, creating a passenger hub to connect rail and bus services. Once electrification of the Great Western line is completed, high speed trains will run to London every 15 minutes.
The Paintworks project in Brislington is also part of the Enterprise Zone, along with a strip of land for creative companies, dubbed the "media mile".
The final strand of the project is the redevelopment of the St Philip's area to make it more attractive to businesses.
Colin Skellett, pictured, the chairman of the LEP, said: "What we want is to have a rail connection which will mean people will be able to travel to Paris in four hours.
"We want a modern and efficient transport system which will see people arriving into Bristol right into the heart of a vibrant business, commercial and leisure district to rival any city in the world.
"There is no other major city in the UK that does not have an arena and we want to address that situation."
He described the BBC as a "cornerstone of the Enterprise Zone".
City Council Leader Barbara Janke said: "Bristol has a huge amount to offer potential businesses wishing to invest. With its simplified planning and business rate discounts, the Enterprise Zone offers an exciting investment opportunity at the heart of the city and the South West region."
The Homes and Communities Agency, which owns three pieces of land around the station, has spent £5 million on Brunel's Old Station and the derelict Pest Control Depot in Cattle Market Road.
Part of the listed Old Station building will be used as a conference venue and a centre for new businesses.
Organisations which have agreed to lend their help and expertise to the scheme include the major banks, stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown and Bristol University. The University of the West of England, IBM, the Watershed and media umbrella group Bristol Media are also involved.
Refurbishment work has also started on Collett House next to the station and talks are taking place with the owners of the of derelict Royal Mail sorting office with the aim of turning the building into a brand new office block.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "At the moment we are looking at potential sites for re-location within the city, including the newly created Enterprise Zone, and have not ruled anything out."