"If we're just going to end up with a big shed and whopping car park, then the answer is 'No'. "But if Tesco are prepared to do something really special, an exemplar scheme which is carbon-zero rated, which has mixed use and which puts Tesco at the heart of a community, then I think you could end up with a much better, more profitable scheme."If only they'd had the sense to hire George, he would surely have sorted them out with something suitably community friendly. But they didn't and in due course the entirely predictable plans for a big shed and whopping car park appeared. By June 24th George is evidently losing patience with the developers. It's reported that he supports the football club in getting high value for the site in order to make its new stadium work, but any supermarket should be part of a mixed-use community if it was to find favour with him.
"They have to grow up and recognise that that form of supermarket is a dinosaur."
Still BCFC and Tesco didn't take the hint and pressed on with their dinosaur plans. Meanwhile opposition to the Tesco plan was growing in George's manor and the inaugural meeting of BERATE (Bedminster Residents Against Tesco's Expansion into Ashton Gate) was coming up, so time for another subtle position shift. At the meeting on 3rd July George said
“There is nothing like a major threat to its future to galvanise a community. This is an appalling proposal – another giant shopping shed set in a massive sea of car parking. The potential economic and environmental damage to this area is immense."Now that last point, the importance of "de-coupling" the two planning issues (Tesco and the new stadium), is a very sound one and I'm entirely in agreement. As George says, it would be "inappropriate and legally dubious" to consider the two issues as if one was conditional on the other. But of course we know that that sort of thing happens all the time with Bristol City Council.
"I fully recognise the importance of Bristol City’s success but it is quite wrong to imply that a new supermarket is something to do with the new stadium or the World Cup – the two issues have to be de-coupled. It is inappropriate and legally dubious to consider the applications for the new stadium and the new supermarket simultaneously”.
Indeed George may well be mindful of a very recent example concerning the redevelopment of the old Chocolate Factory in Greenbank, where the city council have decided to sell a plot of Railway Path land (the long hedgerow shown below) to the developer, Squarepeg, in contravention of its own Parks and Open Spaces policies and the results of extensive public consultation. The reason given by the council is that the planned redevelopment of the Chocolate Factory depends on the land sale (because that's what Squarepeg claimed, in exactly the same way as BCFC claim that their plans for a new stadium depend on the Tesco development proceeding).
Inexplicably there appears to be no record of George Ferguson speaking out against this earlier travesty of natural justice. Yet he must surely have known all about it, seeing as he is the architect of the Chocolate Factory project and the agent who originally arranged the land sale in a private meeting with the council's Strategic Director of City Development, David Bishop. Perhaps if George had spoken out about the Railway Path land sale being wrongly coupled with the Chocolate Factory development, his current concerns about the Tesco - New Stadium linkage might have a little more credibility.