Residents cry foul as work on new stand at Mem starts without consent

HUNDREDS of fans have urged Bristol City Council to act quickly to allow Bristol Rovers to build a new South Stand at the Memorial Stadium.

The club put in a planning application for the development on April 11 but it was not validated until June 29, by which time neighbours had complained that work had begun without permission.  

On the eve of the EFL season on August 2, Rovers issued a statement saying that “due to issues outside of the club’s control”, the South Stand would not be ready.

This meant that for the first home League One match against Barnsley on August 12, there were fans on only three sides of the ground, rather than the usual four.

The new stand will provide 3,414 seats and will enable the ground to return to its pre-Covid crowd capacity.

The club’s statement said: “As many of you will be aware, the club has pursued an ambitious plan to improve the facilities at the Mem and increase the number of seats heading into this season. This is following the recent reductions in the capacity of the terrace areas and a desire to increase the number of standard and disabled seating options, whilst getting the capacity back up to previous levels…

“We would like to apologise to both our supporters and those looking to attend from Barnsley for all of the inconvenience.

“Moving forward we will continue to review the situation on a match-by-match basis and update supporters as early as possible as to the plans for each fixture.

“The club is continuing to work with local residents and the local planning authority regarding this application.”

Ward councillor Emma Edwards, leader of the Green group on the council, has “called in” the application, meaning it will have to go before a planning committte. This led to Labour accusations of delaying tactics, but Cllr Edwards, writing on Twitter/X, said she thought it would result in the scheme being dealt with more quickly. 

In her online comment on the planning application, she said: “I believe the club need time to sort all of this out and do this properly.”

One resident of Alton Road told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that work had started in June and the club and the contractors had shown “lack of consideration for residents”.

“They’ve removed trees and shrubs, and they haven’t spoken to any of the residents about what they’re doing or planning to do. When it rains, all of the mud and dirt has just been running down our street, which obviously shouldn’t be happening. It’s a nightmare.”

People can comment on the plans on the council’s planning portal at the reference 23/01441/F.

As the Voice went to print, there were 1164 documents relating to the scheme, with about 200 objections. Many commenters said they were not against the stadium development but opposed work starting before permission had been granted.

One resident wrote: “There has not been sufficient consideration to the impact on the community and infrastructure from construction and the increased capacity. Beginning construction before even consulting neighbours is a clear indication that any concerns will be ignored regardless.”

Another resident added: “Due process has not been followed. The development was under way long before permission was sought. It has been a noisy process that has caused issues for neighbours. It would be a disappointment if due process were something that only has to be followed by individuals but not relevant to larger businesses.”

But hundreds of supporters said the works should be allowed to take place. Many pointed out that the Mem had been a sports ground for more than a century.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “A planning application is under consideration. The planning enforcement team have advised that works should not take place without the required planning permission in place.”

Includes reporting by Alex Seabrook LDRS