Thursday, 14 October 2010
Dear Kerry..... About that stadium statement.
I've just read the extraordinary statement issued by the Bristol MPs, yourself included, about the proposed stadium site in Ashton Vale.
I don't know who wrote it (though it has the hallmarks of BCFC authorship), but I'm surprised that you and your colleagues have signed up so readily to such selective and sweeping unproven claims. Have you seen the piece by Marina Hyde in today's Guardian nailing the myth that sports stadia bring urban regeneration, prosperity and jobs?
Equally important, your unqualified call on councillors to 'stand up for the views of the majority of residents and bring the stadium to Bristol' could amount to an invitation to break the law.
As things stand at present, councillors have ONLY the evidence that the land qualifies in law as a Town Green. There is nothing in the public domain to suggest that the independent inspector got it wrong.
As you must know, councillors must now make their judgement on the same issues as were dealt with by the Inspector - the use of the land by the public in the last twenty years.
The development potential of the land, for whatever purpose, is not a legal consideration. (I don't think the Evening Post has ever mentioned that inconvenient truth!).
If councillors allow the stadium issue to influence their decision, they are operating outside the law, and you are encouraging them in that.
If you really want the councillors to bring the stadium to Bristol, can I suggest an approach that would protect green belt, minority groups such as the Town Green applicants, and council assets - while allowing you to promote a stadium without having to publicly encourage councillors to break the law!
It isn't impossible for Bristol's two clubs to ground share, so both sets of fans would get the benefits of a new stadium. There's a choice of potential brownfield sites on post-industrial land to the north of Avonmouth. There's good access by road, and by public transport (especially given the potential of the existing rail infrastructure, including the Henbury loop. By comparison, access to Ashton Vale is difficult and likely to be a victim of cuts). Arguably, at Avonmouth there are industrial hazards to contend with, but I feel sure they can be overcome - they certainly were at Middlesbrough, with a similar site close by COMAH-regulated chemical plant.
The big obstacle seems to be the clubs themselves; a proposal a few years back was stymied by a refusal of Bristol City to entertain the idea of sharing. I'm sure your guess as to why they did that is a good as mine - and probably the same!
Clubs that cannot co-operate for the good of the city and for their own businesses frankly have no right to hold the council, the fans, the residents, and local MPs to ransom.
25th Oct: Kerry's response added in the comments below