Fresh uncertainty for long-delayed Bristol Arena as mayor expands costs probe

The long-delayed Bristol Arena concert venue could be facing a fresh setback after the city's mayor announced a fresh review into the scheme's cost, location and design.

Bristol Arena: scheme secured planning consent last year
Bristol Arena: scheme secured planning consent last year

In April last year Bristol City Council’s development control committee voted in favour of two applications by the council’s major projects team relating to the scheme.

The committee granted full planning permission for the construction of the 12,000-capacity arena on the southern part of the former Diesel Depot site on Bath Road, along with the creation of a public plaza and further landscaping.

An application for outline permission for up to 19,000 square metres of mixed-use development on the Arena Island site was also approved.

The approval marked a breakthrough in a long battle to get the arena built.

Plans were axed in 2007 over cost concerns, but former Bristol mayor George Ferguson pledged to revive the scheme as part of his election campaign in 2012.

However, a statement from the city council today said that Bristol’s new mayor, Marvin Rees, has asked consultants KPMG, which is carrying out a value-for-money review of the scheme, to "expand the scope of the review, bringing fresh possibilities for the project".

The statement said that the scope "will expand to take in the location, design and the possibility of private financing as part of a thorough assessment of options".

It said that the results of the review are expected next month, with a decision on how to move forward with the project expected at a Cabinet meeting in January.

Rees said: "We can’t commit to the current design on this specific site at any cost and I wouldn’t want that kind of blinkered approach to become the arena’s undoing".

Rees added that the projected cost if the existing scheme is "a challenge and we need to deal with it".

The council statement said that the current target date to open the arena is 2020 "and this remains the case". It added, however, that this would "depend on what options are recommended by the council’s consultants and what future decisions are made".

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