In July, Bristol’s four MPs, led on by Charlotte Leslie no doubt, wrote an ‘open letter’ to Sainsbury’s asking the business to go ahead with its plans to redevelop the Memorial Ground. The letter warned that it would be “catastrophic” for Bristol if the scheme did not go ahead. Way over the top, this hyperbole is also nonsense. The MPs further claim that “£200 million of vital investment” would be unlocked by the redevelopment scheme. Many people have taken their word for this, but the claim is most economical with the truth. Their letter is full of factual errors and misrepresentations, as follows:
“Bristol is in desperate need of an arena fit for the 21st century” In fact, once a relatively minor funding issue is resolved, Bristol will be getting an arena right in the heart of the city and within easy walking distance of Bristol Temple Meads (not in South Gloucestershire). It is described as ‘a catalyst for economic growth and activity, bringing people right into the city centre’ and is due to be completed in 2017.
If a larger venue in Bristol is required, there is the 27,000 capacity Ashton Gate Stadium, planned for completion in 2016. These are exciting developments for Bristol and they enjoy citywide support.
“This development … would be a very significant boost for the business case for enhanced local railway” Wrong. The business case for local railway has already been made and the finance secured (see Bristol Post, 7 July 2014). Why does the business case not rely on the UWE stadium? Because none of the proposed new stations will be as close to the proposed stadium as the existing Filton Abbeywood station. Someone must buy Charlotte Leslie a map of her constituency.
“A 1,000 seat conference centre (at the UWE stadium) … will raise the profile of Bristol as a cultural and commercial hub” There are numerous other locations already competing for large conference business, including one right next door: the existing conference and exhibition centre at UWE has an even greater capacity of 1,500. Factor in the Bristol Arena, and the UWE stadium conference centre idea looks superfluous and suburban.
“This development also unleashes land for much-needed housing” Wrong again. The “unleashing” has already happened, the houses near the proposed stadium have almost all been built. There are no housing developments dependent on the UWE stadium being built.
The UWE stadium development will provide “a boost for local suppliers and construction firms” With an increasingly healthy property market and an improving economy, the question is not ‘if’ but ‘what’ builders will construct.
If Sainsbury’s pulled out of the crass redevelopment scheme, it would be “catastrophic … for the reputation of Sainsbury’s in the South West” On the contrary, it will be an everlasting blot on Sainsbury’s reputation if they desecrate a war memorial sports ground, established just after the First World War. This is a supermarket that has values – and if the national press ever notice the blunder the company is involved in, the reputational damage will be widespread – hypocrisy will be the least of the charges. At every anniversary event, we will remember how Sainsbury’s respected the war dead.
The MPs’ way seems to be: If you’re going to tell a lie, tell a whopper.
The four MPs shamelessly side with big business (Sainsbury’s) and property speculators (Rovers’ board of directors) and against local traders/small businesses and the put upon residents of BS7. An election is coming, but so are the centenary years of the Great War. The MPs’ foolish, error-ridden letter is anti-Bristol, utterly disrespectful to the sacrifice of the Bristolian soldier sportsmen and a grave misjudgement.