Plans to create a huge 3,600-seater sports arena and convention centre next to Ashton Gate Stadium, along with 510 new homes nearby, look set to get the go-ahead next week after the scheme got the backing of Mayor Marvin Rees and city council planners recommended it be given permission.
The £200 million Ashton Gate Sporting Quarter will see a sports and convention centre, hotel, block of 125 flats, new offices and shops, a multi-storey car park and a club museum built next door to Ashton Gate Stadium in South Bristol.
And, just 500 yards away on half of the land once earmarked for a new stadium a decade ago, some 510 new homes will be built, including at least 150 classed as ‘affordable’.
The two planning applications have been with city council planners for almost 18 months, but work could get underway in the New Year if city councillors give the final go-ahead at a meeting next Wednesday.
Both the ‘Sporting Quarter’ application and the one for the new housing development called ‘Longmoor Village’ have now been recommended for permission by council planning officers, and councillors will make their decision next week knowing the scheme also has the backing of Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees.
He said: “The plans have my full support. Worth in the region of around £200m the proposals include more community facilities, greater pedestrianisation, and hundreds of new homes, whilst retaining green space and aiming for a biodiversity net gain. This investment meets a need that’s been identified and talked about for some time, and will further strengthen Bristol’s role as the cultural, sporting, and economic centre of our region.”
The ‘Sporting Quarter’ will be constructed on land between the existing stadium and Winterstoke Road.
After plans for a new stadium next to Ashton Vale were turned down after a lengthy planning battle ten years ago, Bristol Sport owner Steve Lansdown embarked on a transformation of the existing Ashton Gate Stadium – turning it into a 27,000-seater venue – but his family company, Esteban Investments, also set about buying up the freeholds of the various businesses next door, including Wickes DIY store, Midas and Nationwide Platforms.
Those sites will close and be levelled to make way for a large-scale development linked to Ashton Gate via Marina Dolman Way and the Lansdown Stand of the existing stadium.
At its centre will be a 3,626-capacity indoor arena, described by Bristol Sport as ‘sports and convention centre’. This will primarily be home to the Bristol Flyers basketball team, which come under the Bristol Sport umbrella and currently play at the SGS College in North Bristol.
The rest of the time, the arena will be a flexible space capable of hosting major conferences, conventions, arts, music, theatre and events.
Next door to the convention centre will be a multi-storey car park, hotel, a block of 125 flats, offices, shops, a gym and a sporting museum for Bristol City and Bristol Bears rugby team. Bristol Sport first presented their plans back in 2018 and, after consultation with local residents in Ashton Gate, Ashton Vale and Bedminster, slightly scaled back the scheme next to the stadium.
In planning terms, it has been relatively uncontroversial – the Sporting Quarter scheme triggered just 15 objections from members of the public, and 33 letters of support. But the plans for new homes nearby are more controversial.
Just over 500 yards down the road, on half of the land originally put forward as a site for a new stadium for Bristol City around 15 years ago, Mr Lansdown still owns the site. After the stadium project was rejected by city council planners more than ten years ago, it was split in two by the Metrobus road link from Long Ashton Park and Ride.
The half next to the David Lloyd Sports Centre and the Manheim Bristol Auction site is a single green field now, and Esteban Investments has applied to build 510 new homes there in a development called ‘Longmoor Village’.
The plans initially attracted widespread objections – with local residents in Ashton Vale unhappy at the development, people in Long Ashton worried about it setting a precedent of bringing residential Bristol closure to them, and environmentalists objecting to the loss of a green field site.
Earlier this year, the plan had attracted more than 150 objections, but in recent weeks and months, more people began to submit letters of support. A week before the scheme goes before the councillors on the planning committee, it has received 199 letters of objection, with 35 in support.
But council planning officers are recommending it for permission, despite initial objections from the Environment Agency about flooding only recently being overcome, and with Natural England still saying they need more information about the potential loss of habitats for bats.
Both applications have been linked by Bristol Sport – with Steve Lansdown saying the new homes will help pay for the Sporting Quarter.
He said he was pleased the council planners were finally recommending it for permission. “It’s great to finally have it after being delayed a few times previously,” he said. “Everything is in place, and we are ready to go, we are just looking forward to getting on with it.”
Mr Lansdown said his dream has always been to bring the city’s professional basketball team to a bespoke arena and have them watched by thousands. “We saw how exciting the Flyers are on Friday night. It’s always a great occasion but we talk about the crowd there and we can only get about 500 or 600 or so and selling out every week, but what if we can have three or nearly four thousand here at Ashton Gate? It will transform the sport and the area,” he added.
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Last week, Bristol Live revealed that Business West, the region’s business lobby group, had taken the unusual step of writing to the council calling on planners to approve the scheme. This week, Visit Bristol, the city’s tourism organisation, did the same.
“We have been following the development of the Ashton Gate Sporting Quarter closely as it will act as a catalyst for increasing the value of the visitor economy of the city, especially in the south of the city, providing new facilities that are desperately needed for both leisure and business visitors,” their letter said.
“The proposed facilities will support the elevation of Bristol to a tier one business events destination. For too long Bristol has lost out to other cities like Cardiff and Birmingham due to a lack of larger conferencing and events facilities with onsite hotels,” they added.
The Destination Management team, responsible for delivering services that develop the visitor and leisure economy through the region added: “The development will hugely strengthen Bristol’s role as a cultural, sporting and economic centre of our region. Coinciding with the multi-million-pound investment in the British Basketball League (BBL) recently, it will undoubtedly give this rising sport a higher profile, inspiring both star athletes of the future and a healthy, fun, participatory team sport that is accessible to all,” they added.
Bristol Flyers head coach Andreas Kapoulas is also the assistant coach of the Great Britain national team. He said the basketball arena will be the third largest in the country.
“The proposed venue will rank Bristol third largest amongst the other BBL venues and ensure our ability to achieve long term financial sustainability,” he added. “Having our own home venue will mean we can compete at the highest possible level, attracting larger crowds and growing the sport. It will have a positive impact on the city too as we will be able to host major finals and European games – none of which are possible from our current home at SGS.
“The Bristol Sport Foundation, along with Flyers, Robins and Bears Community Foundations are all based at Ashton Gate. This development will ensure their offering to the community is able to expand and grow, with a commitment from the Bristol Sport Foundation to provide 40,000 hours of accessible space for sport for the community,” he added.
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