Huge revamp of Temple Quarter set to receive £95m in Government backing ‘very shortly’

The project would begin with a redevelopment of Temple Meads station, followed by a series of other big plans for nearby derelict land

The Government is on the cusp of approving a £95million bid to kickstart the huge Temple Quarter revamp, council chiefs believe.

Hopes are high that funding is finally on the way to unlock one of the biggest city centre regeneration projects in Europe just weeks after Bristol mayor Marvin Rees accused Downing Street of broken promises when it was apparently left off a list of Levelling Up schemes.

But senior City Hall officers told a recent council meeting that an announcement now seems imminent and that advanced talks with Whitehall had reached the stage of agreeing terms for the major deal.

West of England metro mayor Dan Norris says he is also optimistic that the money will be secured soon following a “very productive” meeting with Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy in Bristol.

The project would begin with a redevelopment of Temple Meads station, followed by a series of other big plans for nearby derelict land, including student halls, offices and a conference centre at Temple Island where former mayor George Ferguson had earmarked an arena.

Artist impression of the tower blocks approved for Bristol University’s Temple Quarter campus near Bristol Temple Meads as part of plans for the quarter
Artist impression of the tower blocks approved for Bristol University’s Temple Quarter campus near Bristol Temple Meads as part of plans for the quarter
Artist impression of the tower blocks approved for Bristol University’s Temple Quarter campus near Bristol Temple Meads as part of plans for the quarter

Temple Quarter, the first half of the multi-billion-pound, 25-year revamp for up to 10,000 homes and 22,000 jobs, will also have a new University of Bristol campus and a transport hub, while the second phase will regenerate a larger area at neighbouring St Philip’s Marsh.

When the Government’s Levelling Up white paper was published at the start of February, it came with no new money but the intention that investment was spent effectively in the right areas.

Mr Rees voiced frustration and disappointment that the £94.7million request to fund key infrastructure to transform the area around Temple Meads had still not materialised despite receiving personal assurances from people in Downing Street that it was an “absolute banker of a scheme” and would be announced at the same time.

But fast-forward four weeks and Bristol City Council’s growth & regeneration scrutiny commission was told on Monday, February 28, that the white paper was encouraging after all.

How Temple Island could look as part of plans for the quarter
How Temple Island could look as part of plans for the quarter
How Temple Island could look as part of plans for the quarter

Director of economy of place John Smith told councillors: “It has a real focus on regeneration, particularly on brownfield schemes, so it feels more relevant than ever.

“The funding bid for the £94.7million was approved by Homes England over a year ago now and we have been awaiting government approval of the scheme.

“We have received very positive updates recently. I attended a meeting to talk about the grant agreement earlier today.

“The white paper seems to prioritise exactly this type of development which is shovel ready, so we are very much hoping the finalisation of that approval will be with us very shortly.

“In the meantime we have been provided with £2.2million interim money by the West of England Combined Authority (Weca). That has allowed us to continue various elements of the work.”

How the new University of Bristol campus will look from Temple Meads railway station
How the new University of Bristol campus will look from Temple Meads railway station
How the new University of Bristol campus will look from Temple Meads railway station

Labour Cllr Tim Rippington said: “We have been talking about this £94.7miliion bid for over a year now and there has been a lot of confidence for quite a long time that we would get that money. Yet here we are, we still haven’t got it.

“Is there a plan B if that is not forthcoming or is it just a case of when?”

Executive director of growth & regeneration Stephen Peacock replied: “We are obviously not in control of the decision.

“There is always another way but that would very much not even be a plan B at this point because, of all of the regional schemes, this is so far developed and so well-suited to investment in a regeneration project that it’s worth continuing as we are.

“We are in good dialogue with government, we always have been, but it has got to the point where we are actually talking about terms of agreement, so we have no plans to divert away from this because we’ve put probably six years into this, some people would say about 30 years.

“It is close but we are not the decision-maker. We have had a great reception from everybody who has looked at this. It has got all the hallmarks of a fantastic, public-private, nationally significant project.”

Speaking on Monday, March 8, metro mayor Dan Norris said he had a “very productive” meeting with Sir Peter to press the scheme’s importance and that he was “optimistic these final pushes will mean we unlock much-needed cash for the station entrances” from the Government.