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Funding plan for Bristol's £91 million arena agreed

By TomMorris  |  Posted: January 17, 2014

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An artist's impression of what the planned Bristol arena could look like

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BRISTOL looks set to finally get its long-awaited arena after a large portion of funding was agreed late last night.

City councillors committed £38 million of the £91 million needed for a 12,000 seater venue near Temple Meads.

The £53 million hole in the project's budget is expected to be filled by capital borrowed against money from Bristol's City Deal - an agreement with government.

It took the cabinet meeting at City Hall less than 15 minutes to agree that the building of an arena was a “no-brainer” - as suggested by today’s Bristol Post front page and echoed by Mayor George Ferguson.

Property advisors Jones Lang LaSalle, who have advised on major visitor and event facilities throughout the UK, urged politicians to deliver the facility for the city in today’s Post story.

Jeremy Richards, head of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Bristol office, had said: “Our message is clear – we cannot afford not to have an arena, and we know that the people of Bristol are overwhelmingly in favour of the project.”

Mr Ferguson re-iterated that an arena was and remained a “top priority” for him - and said realising it would remain down to determined leadership.

Very quickly he and members of his cabinet - most vociferously deputy mayor Geoff Gollop and Gus Hoyt - had discussed the merits of the project and approved the funding package, which will now go in front of a meeting of the full council on February 18.

The preferred arena option for Mr Ferguson is next to Temple Meads.

The mayor has also launched a international competition to find the best design for an arena, and has pledged that the project would be up and running in the next five years.

Cabinet councillors heard last night that £38m of the overall bill would made up of rent from the arena operator, car parking income and another payment from the operator.

The council hopes the remaining £53m can be borrowed against City Deal money.

The City Deal is an agreement between central Government and some of the UK’s largest cities to give councils outside the capital more economic freedom.

Mr Ferguson said if funding was granted this way it would represent an “exceptionally good deal” for the council.

He added: “The cost would be met by sources including rent, and have safeguards in place to make sure we can put on events that might not interest the operator.”

Having passed his best wishes to deputy mayor Mark Bradshaw who is being treated for bowel cancer, Mr Ferguson started what was to become the longest cabinet meeting of his tenure.

One of the first topics to rear its head, despite Mr Ferguson reversing his decision to cut staffing levels, was Hengrove play park.

Councillors Tim Kent and Sylvia Doubell submitted two petitions regarding Hengrove play park, one with 274 signatures and an e-petition with 3,292 supporters.

Ron Stone raised a chuckle when, discussing public toilets, he told the cabinet that “spending a penny is sometimes more important that spending £7 million”, after being cut off by Mr Ferguson during his speech.

The mayor also fielded statements from councillors on the bedroom tax, under-occupancy charge and Robin Hood Tax, and from members of Unison, the Bristol Tree Forum, Bristol Women’s Voice and Bristol Disability Forum.

The Post reported on Wednesday that Mr Ferguson had used a £4.4million windfall to save several key council services from being axed. He has reinstated or changed nearly 20 cuts he hopes will “take the heat out” of budget proposals, which aimed to save nearly £90million during the next three years.

Blaise Castle Museum, The Red Lodge in Park Row; The Georgian House in Great George Street and the Roman Villa in Lawrence Weston are no longer in danger of being mothballed. But the council still hopes they will eventually become self-financing.

A £410,000 cut in community transport is no longer going ahead, St Paul’s Learning Centre has been saved and a string of services affecting the elderly, including the library at home service, have been reinstated.

The consultation led to nearly 4,000 responses, 12 times as many as last year and probably more than ever before.

Mr Ferguson said he had outlined a three-year plan for his vision of Bristol.

“I have set this budget within a difficult background, while continuing to protect the most vulnerable members of the city and investing in the future of Bristol, to make it a global city and worthy of its green capital status.”

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35 comments

  • Towngas  |  January 18 2014, 1:18PM

    If there is genuine, joined-up thinking here, then by the time the Arena is finished, the massive infrastructure projects on the local railway system should also have finished. That means there should be services into BTM from Portishead, locations in North Bristol, improved services from the Bath area etc etc. With a little bit of forethought and planning, the railway operators could easily run "Concert special" services, designed to transport thousands of concert-goers to and from the venue at convenient times and at reasonable cost. On the other hand however, this is Bristol..................

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  • bril_lil  |  January 18 2014, 12:21PM

    I wish people wouldn't keep on about car park spaces. How can there be space near the arena for maybe 4,000 cars (if say average of two people come in a vehicle and the rest get there by foot/bus)? Car park should only be for disabled, those with little children and drop off zones. Simply need adequate and affordable public transport.

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  • seanre3ht  |  January 17 2014, 11:05PM

    Rave on

    Rate   -1
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  • mountbatten  |  January 17 2014, 7:48PM

    I am not against the idea of an arena, it is just that I think it is in the wrong place and that these days most people will not go unless they can use their car and can park easilly and at not too high a cost. I would have thought that it will be difficult to get events and performances to cover the costs of operation, when both the capital and operating costs are taken into account. I very much doubt that the Colston Hall would cover its costs if the majority of the capital costs of it had not been met a long time ago. There are alternatives to the Ferguson proposal but there has been too much money spent on this scheme for them to be considered, without loss of face and a lot of Bristol tax payers money. It should not worry me to much as I live outside the Bristol boundary and will probably not be around if it happens.

    Rate   -13
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  • DavieNoodles  |  January 17 2014, 7:14PM

    Timmy, I have no idea. But maybe you think money grows on trees? Obviously, the council planted one a while ago!

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  • Towngas  |  January 17 2014, 7:13PM

    It's funny. I never realised until today that Bristolstuff is in fact an anagram of Daniella Radice.

    Rate   12
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  • timmyturner  |  January 17 2014, 6:34PM

    why do i still read this ****?

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  • DavieNoodles  |  January 17 2014, 5:34PM

    The council has been telling porkies! £91m found for a tiny venue, yet public service get slashed, I'm sorry, but my mission is to vote the council out.... I have no confidence in these tricksters!

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  • arealbristol  |  January 17 2014, 2:39PM

    Steve - good suggestion. Run an international competition with one of the key decision points being total the environmental impact of using the supplier. Those local to Bristol would have a lower carbon footprint than organisations looking to fly or drive here. Problem solved. This happens all of the time and ties nicely into our green capital credentials. You see problems. I see solutions.

    Rate   -4
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  • LordClifton  |  January 17 2014, 2:03PM

    Still no sign of that £1billion Bristol was promised if it said YES to an elected Mayor?

    Rate   12
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