Council fast-tracks Rovers stand plans

The new South Stand at the Memorial Stadium could be ready for use this month after a planning application was fast tracked.

Bristol Rovers Football Club has now been given permission for the permanent provision for more than 3,000 fans in spite of objections from neighbours.

Construction work on the facility had already started before consent was granted. The stand will have to pass safety checks before it can open.

The club put in a new planning application to Bristol City Council in early October after its original one was delayed. The council’s development control A committee voted to grant permission on November 15, six weeks after the application was submitted. Planning applications in Bristol can take 18 months to get from submission to approval, due to an ongoing and severe backlog.

Speaking to the committee, local resident Chris Walker said: “This stadium has been in the city for 103 years. It’s about time it’s allowed to develop. It doesn’t cater for disabled people, and visiting supporters have to stand in the rain. It’s unbelievably dilapidated and run down.”

Kevin Hunt, representing Rovers, added: “The new South Stand will improve the look and the feel of the Memorial Stadium and provide enhanced facilities for supporters with better provision for disabled spectators in particular.
“The club has agreed to financial contributions to improve local road safety and to prepare and implement a travel plan to enhance sustainable transport. The noise assessment and daylight study both demonstrate that there will be no material impact on the neighbouring residents.”

The plans include removing the previous modular stand, known as the “tent”, and building a stand with 3,414 seats, new toilets, concession stalls, and better access for disabled fans. The Memorial Stadium opened in 1921, dedicated to the memory of Bristol rugby players who died in the First World War.

The committee heard there had been 169 objections and 397 comments of support.

Some residents, particularly those living on Alton Road behind the South Stand, fear the plans will lead to a loss of daylight and exacerbate parking issues. They also criticised Rovers for poor consultation.

One resident told councillor: “The club has not consulted properly with the community and this project was rushed through in an attempt to get it ready for the current football season. The initial number of objections was much higher but the council removed and erased them from the system for the re-submission of the application.
“I have concerns about the accuracy of the light and noise impact reports. They do not seem correct and neither expert visited my home. A 25 per cent reduction in light was reported as ‘minor’, and that is not minor to me. The changes are detrimental to my living conditions. ”

Questions were raised about documents submitted the morning of the meeting, which Green Councillor Fi Hance said seemed “a bit iffy”. But officers said the documents were minor updates and revisions, and were improvements on previous plans.
All but one councillor on the committee voted to approve, while expressing dismay at the lack of consultation. Green Cllr Paula O’Rourke abstained from voting, and urged the committee to visit the site before deciding.
Conservative Cllr Richard Eddy, chair of the committee, said: “Only a very small number of properties, and very minorly, are affected by a small reduction in sunlight. That to me is a positive sign, of course. This is a heartily and supportable positive scheme, and it involves new facilities for the 21st century which Gasheads and others deserve.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service