‘Travesty’ if Memorial Stadium plans are rejected, says Rovers chief

January 10, 2013

From Bristol 24-7 www.bristol247.com

Bristol Rovers chairman Nick Higgs has said it would now be a “travesty” if councillors reject plans for supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to redevelop the Memorial Stadium.

Members on Bristol City Council’s Development Control Committee (North) are due to vote on the development next Wednesday evening at City Hall. Planning officers recommend the development for approval, although the matter would then be referred to the Secretary of State, who then has 21 days to comment.

The plans include a 50,000 sq ft store, up to five small retail units and a ‘home zone’ with 68 homes ranging from three-bedroom town houses to flats. The scheme would create around 350 jobs.

Bristol Rovers want to move to a new £40m, 21,700-seat stadium on UWE’s campus at Frenchay. Selling the Memorial Stadium, which the club owns, to Sainsbury’s would provide most of the cash for the move.

In July, South Gloucestershire Council approved plans for the stadium subject to certain conditions.

Mr Higgs said he was pleased with the latest news but that it was just a small step along the way.

He added the councillors’ decision would make next Wednesday one of the most important dates in the history of the club.

“We are very pleased that the officer has recommended approval for the Sainsbury’s development, this is very positive news for the new stadium. However this is just another small but significant step in the right direction, but ultimately the decision rests with the committee next Wednesday,” he said.

“It will be a travesty if this development is not approved. Ourselves and Sainsbury’s have put a lot of careful thought into the mixed-use development of the land, which includes not just a supermarket, but affordable housing, community space, a Memorial Garden and car park that can be used by the shoppers of Gloucester Road, which we hope will regenerate an area where parking has been a problem for many years. As well as that, a new stadium would be a massive benefit to the whole of the South West region.

“I don’t need to tell you all how important this decision is for us, it will be one of the most important days in the entire history of the club.”

Mr Higgs added that the threat of relegation from the Football League would not impact on the club’s stadium plans – Rovers are currently bottom of League Two.

“We will be pushing on with the development regardless,” he said. “But for now it remains our priority to keep Bristol Rovers in League Two and look forward to seeing them playing in a new stadium in the next few years.”

Campaigners against the plans have cited the impact a major supermarket in the area would have on local traders.

The Traders & Residents Against Sainsbury’s Horfield (Trash) group said road layout changes proposed in the plans would put cyclists in greater danger.

Former Green Party mayoral candidate Daniella Radice, a member of the campaign, said: “These junction alterations will make life more dangerous for cyclists, and Bristol is supposed to be a cycling city. This area is already heavily congested and it just takes one incident to cause traffic chaos on Gloucester and Muller Roads.

“I do not see how articulated lorries will safely negotiate a mini-roundabout in the middle of Filton Avenue. From a traffic and safety perspective this proposal does not work.”


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