By Dominic Harris
DIRECTORS from Bristol Rovers told community leaders and residents they wanted the club’s new £40-million stadium to be “part of the community”.
Club director Ed Ware and director of finance Toni Watoladiscussed issues of traffic management, parking and the potential impact of Sainsbury’s at a meeting of the Horfield and Lockleaze Neighbourhood Partnership Thursday night.
Last month it was announced that Rovers had entered into a partnership with the University of the West of England to build a 20,000-seat stadium next to the university’s campus at Frenchay and would sell the current ground at the Memorial Stadium to Sainsbury’s. Mr Ware and Mr Watola said they would look to run a consultation period until mid-September and put in a planning application by October.
The two men suggested the supermarket’s consultation would be a little behind that, and would be expected to start in September.
Mr Watola said: “We are getting to a point where we are trying to put detail into the stadium design, and we are confident that we want it to be part of the community.
“We have reserved areas in the stadium for community use, and we are looking for suggestions on what we may be able to do with them.”
Mr Watola told them the current stadium in Horfield was no longer fit for purpose but that if the UWE proposal fell through they would look to redevelop it.
But he said the UWE development was the club’s favoured option.
He said: “There are fantastic transport links because it is just off the ring road and a dual carriageway and there are two train stations nearby. Our fans would be able to get to the ground with the minimum of disruption, and there will be stewards to minimise the impact.”
Martyn Chinn, the chairman of Lockleaze Voice, asked if there would be enough parking spaces for home games, with 6,000 fans attending but just 1,270 new parking spaces.
Mr Watola said the club hoped to reach an agreement with local companies to open up their parking facilities on match days.
Stephen Barrett, from Horfield Residents Opposed to Stadium Expansion, set up to fight possible expansion of the Memorial Stadium, raised concerns that surrounding areas such as Lockleaze could be overrun with people parking on residential streets and walking to the ground, and suggested the club considered helping to introduce a residents parking zone.
Mr Watola said the club would be encouraging fans to approach from the north and not clog up residential streets. Jane Cunningham, also from Horfield ROSE, said the club had consulted too few residents when it looked to redevelop the Memorial Stadium, and asked the directors to ensure the new consultation took in a wider area.
Mr Watola said: “We won’t be able to develop at UWE unless Sainsbury’s gets planning permission, but we see the new ground very much as part of the community.”