So, the house of cards collapses. “Bristol Rovers’ hopes of moving to a new stadium were dashed as a high court judge ruled that Sainsbury’s were not duty bound to buy the Memorial Ground” (http://www.bristol247.com/channel/news-comment/sport-01/football/rovers-stadium-move-off-after-court-ruling).
The Memorial Ground is a special place. It was protected for decades by Bristol City Council and was included in the Local Plan L8 (now apparently superseded by DM5 – Protection of Community Facilities) as a “valuable asset” for being a sports ground. This policy was expressly developed “in recognition of the benefits – social, economic and environmental, of providing sporting areas to accommodate spectator sports within urban areas and thus easily accessible to large areas of the resident population”. An exception to this policy was made under the condition that a new sports stadium would be created within the ‘locality’. (The Council then determined that the UWE stadium was sufficiently local). The exception to L8 cannot be justified without this plan for a new ‘local’ stadium and so if the UWE stadium is not to proceed, policy L8 (or DM5) should now, once again, be protecting the Memorial Stadium.
TRASHorfield and I are not opposed to the building of a stadium at UWE; but we are opposed to the destruction of the Memorial Ground for the building of a supermarket. A Sainsbury’s supermarket would cause traffic congestion, air pollution and noise pollution – and threaten the viability of local independent businesses. With so much still uncertain about the site’s future, serious concerns remain about Bristol City Council’s permission for daily 19 hour heavy goods vehicle access to the site via residential roads.
Moreover and significantly, the Memorial Ground is a sport heritage site, laden with rugby and football memories – and nearly a hundred years old. It is a special and practical type of WW1 war memorial and should remain dedicated to sport and recreation, as was intended by its founders. The “Mem” is not a brownfield site. The Directors of Bristol Rovers have failed to grasp these simple facts – hence the strong objections to the prospect of a Sainsbury’s supermarket on the war memorial sport ground.
We would welcome a proper discussion about possible future uses of the site – a future which does not trample on local businesses, nor on the health of local people. This famous sports ground could be modernised, in a fitting and proportional way, given its war memorial status and residential setting.
The Memorial Ground was built as a living tribute to three hundred rugby sportsmen soldiers who were killed in the First World War. Whoever owns the site is the custodian of a heritage asset paid for by Bristolians and entrusted for sport or recreation forever. It is Bristol’s largest, most poignant and most effective war memorial – it ensures frequent remembrance of the fallen sportsmen, by sport, played at a sports ground.