Wrangle over siting of stadium has cost £120,000
THE five-year wrangle over the future of Ashton Vale where Bristol City FC wants to build a new stadium has already cost council taxpayers nearly £120,000, it has been claimed.
The dispute has yet to be settled and both sides are currently waiting to hear if an independent inspector will hold another public inquiry.
Top Tory councillor Peter Abraham, who chairs the city council's public rights of way committee which decides on town and village green applications, said there was a huge backlog of bids which were awaiting a decision.
Each one costs an average £13,000 to defend against the granting of town green status. But in the case of Ashton Vale, where the dispute has dragged on for years, the cost so far was nearly £120,000.
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Mr Abraham said he had been told that changes are expected to be made soon over town and village green legislation, which had led to what he called an "intolerable situation".
He said: "Local authorities right across the country are being faced with huge legal bills in fighting these cases. Whilst I understand the motivation and have sympathy for those who want to protect their own local environment, many of these applications are just last ditch attempts to prevent much needed housing or jobs."
He said the dispute over the future of Ashton Vale, pictured right, where Bristol City FC wants to build a new stadium, was a "prime example of the urgent need for reform in what remains a quite complex and obscure area of planning law".
He said: "I understand changes will be announced shortly. In my view, these cannot come soon enough if we are to spare the Bristol taxpayer from having to meet totally unreasonable escalating legal costs."
The dispute over the future of Ashton Vale is now under review by the same independent inspector who recommended in 2010 that the 42-acre site should be registered as a town green, effectively ruling out any new development.
But Mr Abraham's committee decided in June last year that only part of the site should be registered, opening the door for the new stadium to be built.
A legal wrangle ensued until both sides agreed to a fresh application.
Inspector Ross Crail, a barrister who specialises in town green legislation, is now deciding how to proceed. One option is to hold another public inquiry.
Mr Abraham believes that a change in the law will happen soon following a conversation with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who is in charge of government planning policy and visited Bristol last week.