Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Looks like the cover’s blown on the Lib Dems’ claim that the Bristol City stadium and Ashton Gate Tesco developments are purely planning matters to be dealt with by their hand-picked team of untrained rookie councillors on the council’s Development Control (South and East) Committee.
Instead it’s suddenly looking like there’ll have to be a cabinet level political decision taken over the development by our Lib Dem friends – recently elected on a platform of cutting congestion, fighting Labour’s “green belt land grab” and preserving green spaces.
Because during all this talk about Steve Lansdown’s plan to open up the city’s green belt by building his new football stadium, financed from overpriced housing, a cheap hotel, a crappy drive-through restaurant and topped off with a giant traffic-hungry high street destroying superstore at Ashton Gate, it was generally assumed that Bristol City FC and their Merchant Venturer partners actually owned the land they had such big ideas for.
This impression was, of course, reinforced by City’s Chief Exec, Colin Sexstone’s assurance to councillors and local interest groups at a special pre-application briefing on 19 August where he openly told the invited guests that the £90 million stadium would not be publicly funded.
But wait! Now it turns out that nearly a fifth of the land at Ashton Gate that Lansdown and Bristol City FC would like to see turned into a brand new Tesco doesn’t belong to them.
In fact, it belongs to us. Or rather Bristol City Council who are supposed to be looking after it on our behalf. It’s marked in red on the map above and it’s not just any old piece of land either. It’s the very piece of land which will provide the proposed Tesco with access to Winterstoke Road.
In other words, it’s the piece of land that makes the development viable for retail. Without this land, the developers would somehow have to demonstrate that the several million car trips generated by the new superstore could be accommodated on Ashton Road. Not even the gullible rookie councillors on our development committees are quite that stupid.
This also means that a major decision will have to made to either give this land away to poor, hard-up Mr Lansdown struggling along on £245m fortune or sell it to him …
Unfortunately for the Lib Dems neither decision that can be taken by rookie fall-guys on a planning committee. And the land, coming in at cost on the open market – we’re told by Sexstone and Lansdown – of between £1m – £3.5m, depending on whether it’s used for retail or residential, cannot be sold or given away by a delegated officer decision at that cost.
So it looks like the Lib Dems little green men Rogers, Hopkins, Wright and Harrison are going to have to take the bullet on this one.
Over to you lads … (No doubt you’ve been fully briefed on all this already. Ho, ho, ho.)