Planning permission for Sainsbury's at Memorial Ground is Passed

Last night the planning application for a new Sainsbury’s at the Memorial Ground was granted (unless the Secretary of State changes ruling in the next 21 days).

The council meeting was well represented by those on both sides of the decision.  Bishopston Councillors David Willingham and Bev Knott spoke out against the plans. David spoke about the Sainsbury,s (that will be larger than Tesco Eastgate) choking our local roads and having a detrimental effect on our vibrant Gloucester Road.

Bev opened by stating that he had nothing against Rover’s plans to build a new stadium and wished them well with the process but not at the cost of the community surrounding the Memorial Ground. He said the sheer size of the development was the problem. The negative impact the new Sainsbury’s Store would have on local retail was significant.

Councillor Levy representing Horfield (not directly next to the stadium) congratulated Bristol Rovers and UWE on their new stadium plans and reported that the majority of Horfield residents he had spoken with supported the arrival of a new Sainsbury’s. He told us that ideally he would prefer to see a memorial Garden, affordable housing or new school on this site but none of these were possible.

Nick Higgs Chair of Bristol Rovers addressed the meeting with an appeal for people to look at the ‘bigger picture’. The investment from Sainsbury’s at the Memorial Ground would enable a state of the art stadium with 21,700 seat capacity to be created in Bristol on UWE land. This would result in Bristol having facilities similar to Cardiff and enable the city to host International events. He told us it was not just a stadium that will be created but a conference centre, bars, restaurants, sports pitches and pavilion. Bristol Rovers would own the stadium and they predict this will help see a turnaround in their form. The example of Swansea winning successive promotions after moving into their new stadium was given.

Considering the ‘bigger picture’ and the negative impact not granting planning permission would have on the progress of Bristol as a whole was widely mentioned throughout the meeting.

Trisha Thorpe representing the TRASH (Traders and Residents Against Sainsbury’s Horfield) told us how a petition against the new Sainsbury’s with 6,550 signatures (the equivalent of half the Bishopston Ward) had been collected by them. She went onto say that if this new supermarket went ahead it would inevitably lead to local shop closures, job losses and would substantially reduce the customer’s choice of where they can shop.

Filton Avenue resident Tom Kennedy spoke from the heart about air quality in the Memorial Ground area already exceeded healthy limits and how the massive increase of traffic to the supermarket was set to significantly reduce the air quality further. He told us that his son had developed Asthma since they had moved to Filton Avenue and whilst they cannot be sure this is directly due to the air pollution in this area, increased traffic is only set to exasperate the situation for his son and other sufferers. Tom finished by stating the air quality should be at the heart of this application.

Daniella Radice member of the Green Party backed up the problems with traffic congestion and access to the supermarket. There was no dispute that the majority of trips to a supermarket are by car. She spoke on the fact she did not believe the proposed mini roundabout to access the store would be safe for cyclists. The Muller Road junction is already congested as it is a major route to the M32 and there will be increased traffic to the largely expanded Southmead Hospital and it is on the Showcase bus route. She concluded that this supermarket is proposed to be situated in the wrong place.

Gloucester Road traders from Romantica (trading for 24 years on the high street) and Pearce’s Hardware (trading for over a 100 years) told the meeting how they are already struggling to keep their businesses going in these hard financial times and are not sure they will be able to exist under this further pressure. They were both saddened that after so many years of trading on this fantastic high street they may face closure and redundancies of well trained, experienced staff.

A number of local residents spoke passionately both for and against the campaign.  Councillors spoke that the correspondence received by local residents had been quite evenly balanced both for and against the Sainsbury’s plans.

Andrew Parker a resident of Trubshaw Close delivered an e-petition with more than 5,500 names to support the scheme. He felt the supermarket would be a fantastic addition to the area. He would prefer a supermarket at the ground than an extended stadium. I believe this echoed the thoughts of many local people that a new supermarket is preferable to the threat of the Rover’s developing at the Memorial Ground. Andrews believes the new Sainsbury’s and Gloucester Road can coexist together.

As the planning was passed with six votes for and three against we must hope that the two can live alongside one another without the loss of the last true high street in the UK. I hope this decision will further resolve the people of Bishopston to support their local traders and maintain its joy and vibrancy. How our local roads will cope with the additional traffic and air pollution I guess is something we will not know until the new supermarket is delivered.

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