Bristol Arena at Temple Island scrapped – what now?

After years of planning, negotiations and false dawns, the fate of Bristol's ‘Arena Island’ was decided this afternoon. Now that the prospect of an arena at Temple Island has been shelved for good, what will happen to the site? Two uses had been proposed for the site, one long standing and the other that has emerged only recently. The first proposal, using the space for the long-mooted Bristol Arena had the backing of councillors and the Bristol public, but had long been viewed with scepticism by Mayor Marvin Rees since his election in 2016. The second is a mixed-use development of a conference centre, homes and offices. The firmest proposal of this kind came from asset managers Legal & General who unveiled plans in August for 550 new homes, a 345 room hotel, conference centre and two major office buildings.

On Monday 3rd September, events took an unexpected turn when Mr Rees backed a motion put forward during an extraordinary council meeting that supported the building of the arena at Temple Island. During the same meeting, however, the Mayor laid out reasons why an arena in the city centre would be a bad idea. These revolved around the risk associated with Brexit and a lack of clarity over the future of retail in the city centre. The decision was finally made official at a public cabinet meeting today, Tuesday 4th September, when Mr Rees and the cabinet formally voted to scrap all proposals for the arena on Temple Island.

A legacy of “jobs, inclusive growth and homes for people who live here” was the driving force behind the decision to abandon plans for an arena, with Mr Rees asserting that a mixed-use development would be far more economically beneficial for Bristol than an arena. However, despite the prospect of a mixed-use development more likely than ever, the future of Temple Island and the arena itself is far from certain. The plans unveiled by Legal & General are largely undeveloped at this stage beyond an image and press release, and no detail on timescales has been announced. This means that after years of planning and tens of millions spent on the pretence of an arena being built in the city centre, Bristol is still not much closer to seeing any development on Temple Island.

What of the arena? Now that Temple Island is firmly out of the picture, the only site now that has not been rejected as being used for this purpose is Filton Airfield. The company behind the Filton project, Malaysian investment firm YTL, has claimed that the cost of the arena will be £80million and will take three years to build, funded entirely by themselves. However, additional transport infrastructure is necessary and much of this remains theoretical at this stage.

Despite no concrete decisions being made to build anything either on Temple Island or in Filton, we at least now know what kind of development is likely and where the arena will not be. It is likely that it will be another period of waiting before plans are submitted for either site.

This article was written by Matthew Roberts, Account Executive at MPC.

The YIMBYJess Pickett