Work can start on new Bristol Rovers stadium after Sainsbury's get green light for Memorial Stadium
Bristol Rovers can start work on a new stadium after permission was been given for Sainsbury's to build a new supermarket on the site of the club's current ground.
The decision by city councillors last night to allow the redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium in Horfield paves the way for the club to build a new £40 million stadium at Stoke Gifford. Work is expected to start on the new home for the club in the summer and be ready in time for the 2015/16 season.
Work will not start on the supermarket until the stadium is built.
Last night's decision by the Development Control (North) Committee will be passed up to the Secretary of State for a final ruling but this is expected to be a formality. He has three weeks to respond.
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After the meeting at City Hall, club chairman Nick Higgs said: "This is the biggest day in the club's history. Now we can move ahead with the new stadium and start work in the summer.
"It's going to mean a tremendous amount of investment for the local economy as well as many jobs.
"This is a big decision – not just for Bristol but the region as a whole."
The new 21,700-seat stadium, which will be built on land owned by the University of the West of England, was given planning permission last year by South Gloucestershire councillors.
Most people accept the club needs the money from the sale of the current ground to the supermarket chain in order to help fund the cost of the new stadium. But campaigners against the store said it was too big, would hit independent traders in nearby Gloucester Road and cause traffic problems.
Both Liberal Democrat Bishopston ward councillors David Willingham and Bev Knott said they supported Bristol Rovers getting a new stadium but believed the cost on the local community was too great.
Mr Knott said: "It is so obviously good for Rovers to be able to move to their new stadium. But the application before us is for a supermarket that is far too big."
Lib Dem councillors Pete Levy (Horfield) and Guy Poultney (Lockleaze) both spoke in favour, saying residents in their wards had shown overwhelming support for the store.
Planning consultant John Whittaker, who spoke in favour, said that more than 40 per cent of the traders in the Gloucester Road area were restaurants, coffee shops, bars, estate agents and hairdressers and would be "little affected" by the store.
Resident Andrew Parker, who lives in Trubshaw Close, set up an e-petition which raised more than 5,500 names supporting the supermarket.
He said: "I love Bishopston and Gloucester Road. I shop there weekly and will continue to do so if this proposal is agreed."
Tricia Thorpe, from Traders And Residents Against Sainsbury's Horfield (TRASH), said the new store would inevitably lead to shop closures, unemployment, loss of consumer choice and "the devastation of a high street that is known across the country for its charm and variety of independent shops".
Denise Furet, from TRASH, said Sainsbury's were offering £202,500 in "mitigation" for a loss of £24 million in trade by Gloucester Road businesses to the new store, adding: "We will also have lost much of our vitality and viability, which has taken generations to build."
Green candidate Daniella Radice said the proposed access – a mini roundabout on Filton Avenue – would not work.
Green cabinet councillor Gus Hoyt said traffic would increase by 30 per cent, which was unacceptable and cause pollution.
Planning consultant Nick Bradshaw, for Sainsbury's, said: "This store will only succeed in offering people an attractive place to shop if they can get in and out easily, and it simply isn't in Sainsbury's interests to invest many millions of pounds on stores which their customers cannot use."
Planning officer Peter Westbury said: "It is clear that the proposed store would have an impact on Gloucester Road but there would be a greater impact on other supermarkets in the area, particularly Tesco at Golden Hill."
He said air quality would be monitored and Sainsbury's would pay £50,000 if agreed levels were breached.
Traffic officer Alistair Cox said that after taking into account the range of highway improvements that would be made, the traffic increase would not create a "severe" impact.
Councillor Trevor Blythe (Lib Dem, Clifton) said he was against because of the growth in traffic.
He said: "We've been told that Sainsbury's will pay £50,000 a year when the pollution goes in the red but that will do nothing to help those residents who inhale the fumes."
Councillor Sylvia Doubell (Lib Dem, Hengrove), who was also against, said: "The Gloucester Road is very important."
But Councillor Steve Comer (Lib Dem, Eastville) said most shops in Gloucester Road would not be competing with the new supermarket.
He said: "What we have to ask ourselves is whether we can do the big picture thing, which means jobs and new facilities."
Councillors decided by six votes to three in favour.
Those in favour were: Steve Comer (Lib Dem, Eastville); Fabian Breckels (Lab, St George East); Barry Clark (Lab, Hengrove); Colin Smith (Lab, Bedminster); Lesley Alexander (Con, Frome Vale); Chris Windows (Con, Henbury).
Those against: Trevor Blythe (Lib Dem, Clifton); Sylvia Doubell (Lib Dem, Hengrove); Tess Green (Green, Southville).
Councillor Knott said afterwards: "This is a bad bad day for the Bristol way of life in Gloucester Road."
Supporters' Club chairman Jim Chappell said he was "delighted" at the decision, adding: "It moves us another step closer to achieving something that everyone at the club has been working towards since the dark days at Twerton Park."