Bristol Rovers granted planning permission for new stand at the Memorial Stadium
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Bristol Rovers Football Club has now been granted planning permission for a new stand at the Memorial Stadium.
The new South Stand will have capacity for over 3,000 fans, but local residents say the building will block daylight into their homes and worsen parking problems.
Construction has already begun on the new stand at the Mem, on Filton Avenue in Horfield, which now must pass safety tests before it can open to the public, potentially in December. Bristol City Council approved permission in record speed, fast-tracking the application.
The development control A committee voted to grant permission on Wednesday, November 15, only 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, disparagingly known as the “tent”, and building a new stand with 3,414 seats, new toilets, concession stalls, and better access for disabled fans. The Memorial Stadium first opened in 1921, dedicated to the memory of Bristol rugby players who died in the first world war.
But some local residents, particularly living on Alton Road behind the South Stand, fear the plans will lead to a loss of daylight and exacerbate existing parking issues. They also criticised Rovers for poor consultation with neighbours, as the club initially began construction without first getting planning approval, as well as other issues with the application.
Hannah, an Alton Road resident, said: “The club has not consulted properly with the local 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. I feel totally unsupported and let down by this process.”
Questions were raised about several late documents submitted the morning of the committee meeting, which Green Councillor Fi Hance said seemed “a bit iffy”. But planning officers said the new documents were only minor updates and revisions, and were improvements on previous plans.
All but one councillor sitting on the committee voted to approve planning permission, while expressing dismay at the lack of public consultation with local residents. 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."