Official Lib Dem policy: arena on the greenbelt

New year gifts don’t get much more entertaining than this …

A copy of the local Lib Dems’ demented effort at producing a fake newspaper – The Bristol Reporter – landed on the doormat yesterday.

Containing no less than nine photos of the Lib Dems’ South Bristol Parliamentary candidate, Mark Wright – or “astrophysicist Dr Mark Wright” as they incorrectly call him – presumably in an attempt to lend some gravitas to their musings on dog shit and potholes – The Reporter contains all those local Lib Dem leaflet classics.

“Only the Lib Dems can win here,” we’re told, accompanied by an in-depth and completely reliable bar chart that proves just that. The Labour Party, meanwhile, continue to eat babies for breakfast The Reporter tells us.

Astrophysicist Dr Mark Wright certainly outshines his public school twit leader, Cleggie, though. He has to make do with just the four photos.

Although the Oxbridge chump does promise us all a £700 income tax cut he’ll never be in a position to deliver and – having spent most of last year flirting with a “troops out” policy for Afghanistan – Cleggie’s now decided, in this election year, that “Our Boys” actually need a pay rise instead!

But the piece that really catches the eye among all the aimless populist rambling is headlined ‘New Stadium gets greenlight’ and finds astrophysicist Dr Mark Wright “very pleased” about Bristol City FC’s new stadium.

But what’s this we’re also told?

“The Lib Dems have made it clear that it sees the provision of a concert arena as an essential part of any deal to deliver a stadium.”

Quite what this ‘deal’ is or who the Lib Dems are making it with is not made clear. But surely it can’t have anything to do with granting the local football club planning permission for a stadium on the greenbelt can it? That wouldn’t be right would it?

Whatever their ‘deal’ is though, it’s pretty clear that the Lib Dems now favour some more development on the greenbelt at Ashton Vale.

Ironists out there might like to note another Reporter article with the thunderous headline ‘Lib Dems say NO to Labour’s greenbelt destruction’.

“The government have been determined to concrete over our greenbelt but we are determined to stop them,” explains Lib Dem Councillor Tim Kent (BA).

So the Lib Dems are stopping Labour concreting over our greenbelt by building a concrete arena on it. Who writes this stuff?

This entry was posted in Arena, Ashton Vale, Bristol, Bristol South, Cabot, Developments, Elections, Labour Party, Lib Dems, Local government, Oxbridge, Planning, Politics, Whitchurch Park Ward, World Cup 2018 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Official Lib Dem policy: arena on the greenbelt

  1. Ooh – good spot on the astrophysicist detail… the original draft did contain the word “former”, but that has been dropped on the final and I didn’t spot it!

    As for the meat – of how we can support the stadium and arena being built there but oppose concreting over the green-belt, that’s a fair question to put, and there was a letter in the E Post last week attacking me for exactly that reason.

    The current greenbelt boundary actually makes our defending job more difficult by not really making any sense. I have always argued that the easiest place to defend the countryside is at a natural boundary, preferably the bottom of a hill, as across most of south Bristol. Bedminster down and the railway-line probably form the most defensible line in Ashton Vale, but sadly that argument didnt get carried.

    I would argue that what we want to do is create a proper boundary that is clear and wont continually tempt developers to go for the other side. We can do this with the SBLR. I then think it’s quite reasonable to fill in up to the SBLR especially with what are effectively one-off flagship facilities for the city, e.g. the Stadium and arena.

    There are those who would say that by building an arena & stadium in Ashton Vale we are no different to those who want to concrete over the greenbelt with urban sprawl all the way up to Barrow Gurney, but personally I would say that is little more than absolutism.

    I’m quite happy to be attacked from that angle by the Green Party and you BB, because I think the public are more pragmatic about it.

  2. “I would argue that what we want to do is create a proper boundary”

    What would that be a wall, a ditch? Your idea of the bottom of a hill is interesting, that is usually called a river. Surely the boundary is defined by lines on a map.

  3. Weston Bay says:

    Abolish the Greenbelt.

  4. thebristolblogger says:

    They are by stealth.

  5. Paul Mizen says:

    “Green Belt areas on the city fringes will be maintained to safeguard Bristol’s attractive setting”. Proposed Core Stategy Nov 09.
    “Countryside and other open land around the existing built-up areas of the city will be safeguarded by maintaining the current extent of the Green Belt”. Policy BCS6 Nov 09. To me that sound pretty straight forward, but then i’m not in politics! Why say what you d’ont mean?, it always rebounds on you. As for the SBLR creating a natural boundary. This is something the developers have been wishing for years. It would be a dream for them. Wait for “friendly” Government, infrastructure already in place and away we go. No more South Bristol Green Belt. It’s just further proof that the Lib Dems have no more claim to the moral high ground than any other politicians!

  6. Ether says:

    A natural boundry such as a hill or river to ‘defend’ the green belt?

    From what? Barbarian hordes?

  7. Weston Bay says:

    @Ether. Barbarian hordes?

    You’ve touched on something there. Green belts were originally designed (yes, designed) to keep city folk from destroying our ‘green and pleasant land’ ie muddy fields, what with the explosion of suburban housing and the motor car. Indeed some of the landed gentry of the time really did see city dwellers as ‘barbarian hordes’. Towns and cities need to grow or they die. They can either grow outward, hence abolish the green belt. Or they can grow upward- so scrap height restrictions.

    Question: are there any height restrictions in Bristol?

  8. Weston Bay says:

    Whoops! Forgot to close html there. Sorry about the italics 🙁

  9. SteveL says:

    Any accusation that people from N. Somerset are barbarian hordes are entirely without foundation. The name “Somerset” is derived from the tribes who would only live in the area in summer time, as it was under water in winter. Proposals to rename the area “A370-commuter-set” have not progressed.

    Wherever you have a border, you have land just nearby priced at agricultural rates; that always interests developers. The ring-road border to the north has the same problem: what appears a border to some appears to be a development opportunity to others.

    Incidentally, you get a good view of the proposed development area from Ashton court. Go to where you get a good view of the southern city, then look rightwards to where the city ends. That’s your stadium land.

  10. Jon Rogers says:

    Weston Bay asks, “are there any height restrictions in Bristol?


    From the Council website … “SPD1 Tall Buildings” is a ‘Supplementary Planning Document’ within the Bristol Development Framework.

    The document provides a set of assessment criteria that the council will require applicants of all tall building proposals to address in their detailed planning submissions.

  11. dave says:

    well done bristol blogger. same old shit with these politics bods.

    up yours astropissosist mark wright, your just like the rest of them.

  12. Jon Rogers says:

    One of the Lib Dems “Six to Fix” is to protect the Green Belt from housing and the so called “urban extensions” as required by the Labour Secretary of State in her proposed amendments to the South West Regional Spatial Strategy.

    It does seem that her desires have been thwarted.

    The specific issue of using Green Belt land for an arena and a new stadium requires careful consideration by the planning committee of the question as was demonstrated on 4th November when the stadium application was considered.

    The relevant section includes, “PPG2 sets out that very special circumstances to justify inappropriate development will not exist
    unless the harm by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by
    other considerations. There is no definition other than this general approach set out in PPG2 so the specific circumstances of each case need to be considered on their merits.

    “Within information supporting the planning application, comprising principally a Planning Statement, a Clubs Needs Statement and an Alternative Sites Assessment the applicant has set out what are considered to be the very special circumstances under the following headings:

    (1) The need for a new stadium
    (2) The lack of alternative sites
    (3) Other special reasons related to social and economic benefits and regeneration.
    (4) The importance of the housing, hotel and food and drink uses to assist the funding of the

  13. Paul Mizen says:

    Jon. How can a new ARENA pass the “no alternative sites” test when there is a perfectly good, and far more sensible alternative next to Temple Meads? Surely this is more about what the Lid/Dems say being worth anything! You fought the last local elections making the Green Belt an issue and when gaining control made protecting it a priority. I don’t recall anyone at that time claiming the present boundaries “do not make sense”. Surely the inconveniant truth is it gets in the way but you cannot bring yourself to admit it.

  14. Martyn says:

    “towns and cities need to grow or they die”

    There is plenty of dead space WITHIN this city which is well overdue for development before ruining the green spaces which so beautifully define the gateways and vistas into and out of this city. The largest probably being the derelict Royal Mail sorting office at Temple Meads:

    I think Councils should have the power to bulldoze such monstrosities and turn them into parkland (or other community spaces) if they haven’t been re-developed within some form of deadline. It is simply unacceptable to build on green belt when there is perfectly good brown belt available. I thought THAT was the government guideline but where developers and local councils are concerned their own ‘deals’ seem to take over.

  15. Gary Hopkins says:

    You are verging on to the possibility of Land Value Taxation which has been a policy favoured by many Lib dems for many years.
    The present system positively encourages developers to sit on derelict land.
    Of course the party owning a lot of the land around Temple Meads and failing to develop is non other than the government in the guise of SWERDA.

  16. Ahh….. never mind the rights and wrongs, feel the populism.

    I suppose the same goes for the South Bristol Link Road, which Mark takes as a ‘given’ in all this. The case against it has been spelled out in detail, and never refuted; the ‘justification’ has not been published, and won’t be till the bid goes in. Why should the LibDem promoters bother with justification while there’s still this commonly accepted myth that new roads = quicker journeys = greater freedom ?

    ….never mind the rights and wrongs, feel the populism.

    Incidentally, the carefully contrived ‘brand’ for this link is not the South Bristol Link Road (SBLR) as Mark describes it, but SBL (South Bristol Link) – to remind us that it’s not just a road, it includes public transport connectivity (a bendybus) to meet some alleged unfulfilled demand for travel between Hengrove and Ashton Gate on a dedicated roadway. I wonder if Mark’s slip shows he knows this particular BRT is never expected to happen, its purpose is to provide a temporary green figleaf for the LibDems’ road building, traffic swelling, populist bow to a business lobby.

  17. Whoops… that post should have been introduced by:

    “I’m quite happy to be attacked from that angle by the Green Party and you BB, because I think the public are more pragmatic about it” sez Mark Wright

    Ahh….. never mind the rights and wrongs, feel the populism.


  18. Tim M. says:

    Bleh, I don’t understand why almost everyone gets so hung up on the greenbelt issue. (Myself, I’m quite in favour of protecting the greenbelt and increasing density in the built-up areas, I just don’t think this particular land is greenbelt proper that’s worth fighting over. It does make nice headlines though.)

    The whole is-it-a-landfill-or-greenbelt drama distracts attention from the IMHO much more important debate about whether this really is the right place for an arena and if putting it out there into the sticks right next to a giant car park doesn’t encourage car use instead of public transport (also: the proposed BRT won’t have near sufficient capacity for arena events, even if you spread arrivals/departures over multiple hours).

  19. dreamingspire says:

    Yes, the arena should be very close to, if not within, the city centre area – Temple Meads. Aren’t RDAs old hat now? So grab that land. The govt view is of City Regions, with the wealth creation being in each centre – hence that new £20M grant for back office systems to support electronic ticketing (bus first, but other stuff can be added), available as £2.2M each to the 9 biggest urban areas, Bristol being #9.

  20. Charlie Bolton says:

    Isn’t the issue here one of trust.

    LibDems fight an election on the basis of not building on the green belt.

    Within months, they support two (and possibly three) proposals to build on it. The stadium. The arena. And who knows about the park and ride on the M32.

    How is this different from Labour fighting a ‘don’t privatise home care’ election, then privatising it anyway?

    If politicians and elections mean anything at all, surely they should actually keep to their election pledges, not do the opposite, as soon as they are elected?

  21. Tim M. says:

    Charlie: sure, I get that, and I think that would be more than fair if the LibDems came out in favour of, say, Ashton Park – but in this case I’m not so sure. Besides, I think everyone knows from the start that election promises are just that: promises, pronouncements of intentions, what one would do in an ideal world. At the end of the day we elect people not because we think they are going to stick to their promises, but because we trust them to make reasonable decisions when the ideal option isn’t an option any longer and things have to be weighed up and decisions be made. In that vein, I wish more attention was given to questions like “does this make sense?” and “are there better alternatives?” rather than everyone feeling very civic when holding people accountable to promises that everyone knew were hard to keep in their purest form in the first place (or put differently: I’m looking forward to the day when the Bristol Blogger blogs ‘Official LibDems policy: arena in bloody daft location’ ;))

  22. Pete: I don’t get the branding “slip” – just a couple of months ago we were all talking on this thread about the SBLR, and everyone knew it was a road:


    1. We are trying to protect the green belt – we want to protect it permanently by creating a good boundary to the city with minimum greenbelt incursion that will last, rather than just holding the tide until the good public vote us out and vote Labour back in to build all over the place again.

    2. You know the story of the Park & Ride full well: South Glos won’t put it where it should be so we are left with little choice other than not building it. Are you against the Park & Ride now? Not very “green”!

  23. “Quite what this ‘deal’ is or who the Lib Dems are making it with is not made clear. ”

    Regular readers of will know exactly what this development on the green belt will be: a new arena.

    It’s going to be ‘paid for’ by swapping the former arena land at Temple Meads with the South West RDA. Talks are ongoing at the moment, but haven’t come to much recently (or at least, they hadn’t last time I asked).

    See for details

  24. harryT says:


    If the battle is to define a “good” boundary for the green belt, why didn’t you say that at the outset – i.e. that you proposed to build extensively on the existing “bad” green belt.

    It is one thing for politicians to claim pragmatism. But this seems like a major deception.

  25. Charlie Bolton says:

    ‘2. You know the story of the Park & Ride full well: South Glos won’t put it where it should be so we are left with little choice other than not building it. Are you against the Park & Ride now? Not very “green”!’

    Actually, park and ride only helps if it is combined with a reduction in parking capacity in the city centre.

    If it isn’t you are just catering for an increase in the numbers of cars travelling, its just some drive slightly less far than others.

  26. Bluebaldee says:

    I just don’t understand why the money can be found to build an arena in Ashton Vale, but not at Temple Meads.


    It’s such a bloody stupid place to build an arena, right on the edge of a city.

    The Temple Meads site was perfect and was decontaminated specifically to construct an arena.

    There is something deeply fishy and undoubtedly corrupt about this whole tawdry little episode.

  27. Tony Dyer says:

    I like that Mark, Charlie mentions the “park’n’ride and you accuse him of not being very “green” whilst simultaneously attempting to justify building a 30,000 seat stadium and a 10,000 seat Arena plus a major road on the Green Belt as supporting “green” ideals? Not forgetting the 9000m2 superstore apparently needed to fund the stadium

    If chutzpah was worth votes, Primarolo would be revising her CV….

    There may well be a case (not that I am conceding there is) for reviewing the Green Belt around Bristol and whether it remains relevant in all places – but surely that is a discussion that should be had by elected representatives informed by opinion from both commercial organisations and other interested bodies. Potential changes to the Green belt surely should not be “devolved” to whichever private company happens to come along with a bit of cash and puts forward a populist proposal driven mainly by their own interests and/or those of a single interest group. It certainly shouldn’t be left to the whims and vagaries of a planning system which every single political party recognises, if for varying reasons, as being flawed.

    There was an opportunity surely to discuss the viability of the Green Belt during the debate on 10th November in the Council Chamber when the Core Strategy was presented to council. This document was approved unanimously and includes Policy BCS6 whose opening sentence is;

    “Countryside and other open land around the existing built-up areas of the city will be safeguarded by maintaining the current extent of the Green Belt”

    That says “current extent” – in other words as it stands – I can’t recall anybody standing up and saying “apart from those bits that don’t create a natural boundary”.

    Instead this idea of cherrypicking some bits of the Green Belt as worth keeping and others as not appears to be post-rationalising the fact that some of the same councillors who unanimously voted in favour of the Core Strategy and protection of the existing Green Belt are now attempting to justify building on that same Green Belt and add caveats to election promises like the one to “fight Labour’s Green Belt Grab and preserve our Green spaces”.

    So this isn’t just about election promises, it is about approving a policy in council whilst at the same time simultaneously supporting proposals that will undermine it – at least Labour tended to wait until they had adopted policies before undermining them……

    If there is a feeling amongst the Lib Dems that some parts of the current Green Belt should not be so designated then surely that should be brought forward as a motion for open debate and free vote in the Council Chamber rather than passing the buck to non-elected planning officers who are already being stretched beyond their limits and have the spectre of “business transformation” or “efficiency savings” hovering in the back of their minds. Or is there a political reason why Lib Dems might be worried about an open vote on supporting a policy to build on parts of the Green Belt? A certain lack of confidence in pushing a policy that might be unpopular with many Liberal Democrat activists and voters?

    In the meantime, I am sure there are some landowners in the Hick’s Gate area who would like to discuss where the “natural boundary” is between Brislington and Keynsham?

  28. Fair post Tony…

    We said that we would “resist Labour’s green-belt grab” and we have – we have killed the urban extensions within Bristol, and helped kill the Ashton Vale one in N Somerset too. I think that having told the public that we aim to protect the greenbelt, they expect us to get on with it and use our judgement on the best way to secure its future.

    We are looking at how we can secure the future of the green-belt… permanently – not just until we are voted out. As I’ve said, I don’t think that the stadium/arena/SBLR undermine the future of the green-belt – I think they will help form a defined edge to the city that will last and protect the greenbelt.

    Now, if all this proceeds as suggested you could argue that we will only have saved, I dunno, say 95% of the greenbelt Labour wanted to grab. And you could argue: “By only saving 95% you have technically failed to deliver one of your manifesto commitments”. As I said earlier, I’m quite happy for you to argue that, because I think the public is not absolutist and will take the pragmatic line that killing the urban extension and defining the edge of the city permanently is a good thing.

    Re: Hicks Gate, spot on. There is no natural boundary down there, and in my opinion it will always be under pressure because of that. BANES have decided they only want to pursue one urban extension. Personally, if they are going for 1 then I think they have made the wrong choice by going for Whitchurch instead of Hicks Gate.

    The Whitchurch extension is absurd – it is up in the hills – beyond the natural boundary – will have no access to jobs and will be little more than a dormitory extension. Even though we oppose all the extensions, there is at least some logic to the Hicks Gate extension, as it could accommodate employment land and use existing infrastructure (even a new train station?!) However, we cant tell BANES what to do, and they are doing what they are. But once the Whitchurch extension is (sadly) built, give it 15 years and they be back for Hicks Gate, IMO. Who knows who’ll be running the council then, and of course the Core Strategy will be up for revision…

  29. HarryT says:


    5% so far. Another 5% for the arena. 10% for the road. And then a big chunk when you redefine the “good” greenbelt boundary.

    None of us really know what you stand for other than election.

  30. Harry, those numbers arent even close. And if I only cared about getting elected I would have joined the Lab/Con parties.

  31. Paul Mizen says:

    Mark, there already is a defined boundary to the Green Belt. It’s only be a line on a map, but that’s how most boundaries are distinguished. I don,t believe you set out to break any pledges regarding the Green Belt. Situations change, and the change here is the World Cup. All this talk about natural boundaries is a smokescreen to try to retain some credibility.

  32. HarryT says:


    You were the one who started making up the numbers. You tell us just how much green belt you plan to develop in a pragmatic and not absolutist manner and how much will be left in your “good” green belt category.

    Personally, I struggle to see the difference between labour and the libs on this issue or on Castle Park, Whitchurch, Filwood Open space or on any of the other green spaces being developed by this current administration.

  33. Truth Seeker says:

    You cant see the difference between saving 95% (or whatever) of Ashton Vale and not saving it? Riiiiight.

  34. harryT says:

    Truthseeker. If you are to seek the truth, you should read the posts first. What does he say he is saving ?

    Mark Wright was alleging that Ashton Vale site represented only 5% of the green belt (his figures). The current administration has not saved any of the green belt. They have just agreed to develop 5% (his figures) so far with plans for an Arena and a major road system on other areas of the green belt (presumably another large chunk – you make up a percentage). Mark Wright has also identified other undefined areas of greenbelt which he considers not “good” enough to save, albeit we don’t know what these are nor how large they are.

    If you know the “truth” seeker, please tell .

  35. Paul Mizen says:

    My last words are to point out the speech by Cllr Neil Harrison who, commenting on the Core Strategy to Full Council said that it , the Core Strategy, would “preserve the Green Belt within the city at least till 2021”. No mention of natural boundaries, boundaries not making sense, or protecting 95%. Something has changed. I know not what!

  36. Harry, the current administration helped kill the Ashton Vale urban extension. It now wont happen. That’s hundreds of acres of greenbelt saved already.

    Re: Castle Park, we have taken a new direction. Gary Hopkins can tell you (at length, if you want) how the new principles change the story there.
    Re: Whitchurch, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. If it’s the Whitchurch urban extension, we didnt want it but BANES are going ahead anyway. If it’s Hengrove Park, we are looking at ways to save more of the green space.
    Re: Filwood open space, since the Knowle West plan has had significant direction from the local community, it’s not surprising that there isnt much change there so far.

    I never said there are other bits of greenbelt not “good” enough to save. Since you have resorted to distorting what I say rather than arguing with it, I suspect you are interested in baiting not de-bating, and therefore I suspect you are a party activist just hoping to provoke…

    Paul, I’ve already explained at length that, if you want to protect an urban limit permanently, you will need more than just an arbitrary line on a piece of paper in the Council House. As evidence I present just about every urban limit, ever (contrary to popular folklore, greenbelt has been eroded in many places over the years). What if Labour are running the Council in 2021 when the strategy is reviewed? You willing to risk that they won’t decide Ashton Park is on again? Fine if you want to risk that – I don’t.

    Acting all Canute may look good, but it won’t secure the future of the Greenbelt long-term. Therefore I think that examining how to form a permanent edge to the city down there that will protect the greenbelt is a good idea. If you don’t, fine – you think the best way to secure the urban limit is the way that is already failing all over the country.

    Neither the arena nor World Cup were game-changers here – remember the SBLR was on the table long ago, and most of you would have been gunning for us on that even if the arena/stadium werent here (except those of you who are Labour activists and are only here baiting…)

  37. dreamingspire says:

    “You know the story of the Park & Ride full well: South Glos won’t put it where it should be so we are left with little choice other than not building it.”
    Don’t build it in the wrong place. With LD in charge in Bristol, Cons in charge all around the outside, just hang on until after the spring elections and then try again with South Glos.

  38. Joan Johns says:

    Dreaminspire must be dreaming – there are no spring elections in South Glos this year – only in Bristol!

  39. Sid from Ashton says:

    The Evening Post article earlier this week revealed the key divisions in the Lib Dem camp. Mark Wright, and Lib Dem Councillors south of the river want the Arena as the price for City’s new stadium. Most of them don’t really want ‘Tescburys’ on Ashton Gate, but would probably swallow it if they got the Arena.

    Trouble is, much as Mark, aong with Gary Hopkins and John Rogers are vocal (not least on the BB), their Lib Dem group is led by the Clifton duo of Babs ‘call me madam’ Janke, and Simon ‘Lord Snooty’ Cook. Babs and Snooty are very well connected with the ‘old money’ establishment based in their part of Bristol, and will back the establishment against idealistic but naive Lib Dems every time…..

    Babs and Snooty appear to have given the nod to millionaires Stephen Lansdown and John Pontin that they can do what they hell they like down at Ashton Vale, and be subsidised by us Council Tax payers to boot!

    The World Cup bid is nothing but a good fig leaf for a ‘free transfer’ of Council assets to the rich.

    (By the way does anyone on this site have an allotment at Alderman Moores?)

  40. Paul Mizen says:

    Cllr. Mark “this administration helped kill the Ashton Vale urban extention. It now won’t happen.” I hope you are right but shouldn’t be taken for granted. As you are aware the planning application by Land Trust will be considered shortly, and although it is likely to be rejected by both Bristol and North Somerset councils, surely until the RSS has been defeated nothing is for certain.

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