By Ian Onions, Political Editor
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has the power to review decisions on major planning applications.
But he has decided a review of this scheme – which would likely have led to a public inquiry – is not necessary.
The decision means another hurdle has been cleared towards a £92-million stadium at Ashton Vale.
If there had been an inquiry, it would have held up the scheme for months.
Bristol City FC has a deal with the supermarket chain to sell its current ground for a new store, so long as the new stadium goes ahead.
The club has insisted it must sell Ashton Gate in order to help fund the cost of the new stadium.
Jamie Baker, Sainsbury’s head of property development, South, said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s decision. We are now working with the council to progress aspects of the detailed plans.”
Guy Price, who becomes the club’s chief executive next week, said: “It’s good to hear that, for the third time, the Secretary of State has decided there is no need for him to call a Bristol City Council stadium planning decision in for him to determine centrally.
“With the city council due to make a decision on the village green issue shortly, the momentum behind the stadium plans is growing.
“If the village green application is rejected, which we hope will be the case, the final hurdle will be out of the way and we would look to make a start on the site quickly. That would be a huge relief and massive boost to the city.”
The Evening Post revealed earlier this week the city council will hold a crunch meeting on Thursday, June 16, to discuss whether to register the 42-acre site as a town green. The meeting of the Public Rights of Way committee will start at 4pm in the council chamber.
Planning permission has already been given by Bristol City and North Somerset councils for the new stadium. But residents in Ashton Vale applied for the land to be registered as a town green to prevent any development.
The committee, which is made up of eight councillors, will have three options.
It could agree to make a decision or pass the decision-making to a special meeting of the full council.
A third possibility would be to pass the matter back to the independent inspector to review the case in the light of further evidence which was submitted by the club after she recommended in September that the whole site should be given town green status.
If the committee does go ahead and make a decision, then it could register or refuse to register the whole site; only register parts of the site which are not needed for a new stadium.
Whatever decision is taken, the losing side is likely to take legal action.
After the inspector made her recommendation, the council’s party leaders urged both sides – the landowners, including outgoing club chairman Steve Lansdown and the Ashton Vale residents – to hold mediation talks but they broke down in March.