OPINION: Karin Smyth MP on plans for Ashton Gate

(Newspaper column as seen in The Pigeon in April 2020)

Many of you will have seen the planning decision relating to the plans for an arena in Filton. It follows the decision to withdraw plans for an arena next to Temple Meads, a development which would’ve provided jobs, apprenticeships and world class entertainment for people here in Bristol South. I first raised concerns over two years ago about relocating the arena to the northern part of the city and remain convinced that the best location for any such development is in the centre of Bristol.

While my constituents are unlikely to feel the real benefit of an arena miles away on the northern fringe of the city, I’ve been very pleased to learn more about the plans to expand Ashton Gate and create a Sport and Convention Centre alongside its 27,000 capacity stadium.

Some of you may have been to one of the big concerts last summer – Take That, Spice Girls, Rod Stewart or Muse – others may be planning to attend this year (I’m hoping to make it along to see The Killers). Lots of you will have been to Bristol City football matches there and others may have been to events such as the Labour Leadership Hustings or awards ceremonies. It has a strong track record of managing large scale events and of getting people to and from the stadium from across the city and the region.

What’s more, most local people walk, cycle and use trains or buses to get to Ashton Gate. As you would likely have done to an arena next to Temple Meads, but are unlikely to do to an arena 8-10 miles away in Filton.

Substantial amounts of public money have been earmarked for transport improvements in the Filton area – with plans for a new train station, Metrobus routes and bridges. We need to see similar investment here in Bristol South.

Ashton Gate would certainly benefit from more transport infrastructure – such as electrification of the existing track which runs from Temple Meads through Bedminster and Parson Street, a new station for Ashton Gate as part of the re-opening of the Portishead line, a Metrobus stop outside the stadium and a new pedestrian bridge over the main road. Their development plans do focus on sustainability – encouraging people out of cars and onto forms of active travel, very important considering the climate emergency we are in.

I’m meeting with Chairman Martin Griffiths again soon to learn more and see how I can support Ashton Gate with the exciting plans – which will lead job creation and more sports and entertainment opportunities.

I’d love to know what you think about it. You can reach me via email: karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk