Developers have outlined what their plans are for the empty site that was once going to be the place where Bristol’s arena - five years after the Mayor of Bristol put a stop to it.
Instead of the 12,000 capacity arena on the land next to Temple Meads station, developers Legal & General have unveiled plans for 500 new apartments, a new hotel and a conference centre.
The plans were first proposed back in 2018 and a deal later signed between Bristol City Council and Legal & General for the project, but nothing else has happened with it since then - until now.
No planning application has yet been submitted for Legal & General’s project, but next week, the developer is launching a ‘community engagement’ consultation ahead of submitting detailed plans for what it proposes on the land, which is now being called ‘Temple Island’, and is still connected by the bridge built for the arena that has become known as ‘the bridge to nowhere’.
The land isn’t actually an island - it’s bordered by the River Avon on the east side, the main railway line on the west and the A4 Bath Road to the south west. In 2019, Bristol University was given planning permission to build accommodation blocks for 953 students on the northern end of Temple Island, nearest the station and the river, but work there is yet to get underway.
Now, Legal & General are unveiling their plans for 500 new homes, and say they have a ‘target’ to make 40 per cent of them affordable - which would mean 200 would either be flats for social rent, affordable rent or shared ownership. As well as the flats, there will be a new hotel and conference centre.
The announcement by Legal & General of the start of their consultation programme made no mention of office blocks being part of the project, but Bristol Live understands there will still be offices built on this part of Temple Island.
The office building element of Legal & General’s plans for Temple Island have been the most controversial, with opposition councillors questioning a decision by Bristol City Council’s leadership team to sign a contract with L&G to guarantee the rent on the offices for the next 40 years. Bristol Live reported in August last year that this deal had finally been struck. In June 2021, the Mayor told Bristol Live such a commitment from the council had been necessary to secure the £350 million investment to redevelop the site of what was originally going to be the city centre arena.
The exact details of Legal & General’s plans will be revealed at a series of consultation meetings, where the firm will ‘focus on listening to the community’s ideas and aspirations’.
Events are being held at the Engine Shed, near Temple Meads, next week, on Thursday, March 9 from 1pm to 6pm and then again on Saturday, March 11, from 10am to 2pm. There will be an online ‘webinar’ too, which will take place on Monday, March 13 at 7pm.
Legal & General say they’ve engaged renowned architect Zaha Hadid, who designed a number of famous buildings around the world like the London Aquatics Centre, the Guangzhou Opera House and the Serpentine Gallery in London.
“We are truly excited to continue the conversation about the future of Temple Island,” said Ben Rodgers, the head of regeneration for Legal & General Investment Management. “The project presents a huge opportunity to create a scheme which puts sustainability, inclusivity and wellbeing at the heart of its design.
“Temple Island has stood vacant since 1995, so we’re delighted to discuss our proposals to deliver a vibrant new district, offering major employment opportunities, much-needed homes as well as the facilities to attract tourism and delegates from around the world. We really believe this scheme will play its part in supporting the growth of Bristol, and cementing its position as a leading place to live and work,” he added.
Last month, the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, launched a much wider council consultation programme for the rest of the ‘Temple Quarter’ regeneration scheme, which includes Temple Island, but also a number of sites around the station and Temple Way, into Redcliffe, as well as much longer-term plans for the industrial area around The Dings and St Philips Marsh.
Mr Rees said the council was ‘excited’ to work with Legal & General. “Temple Island is a major part of our vision for Temple Quarter, and will provide some of the new homes and jobs our city needs in a sustainable location close to the soon-to-be transformed Temple Meads station,” he said.
“We’re excited to work with Legal & General, who will bring their expertise and long track record of delivery to Bristol to help make Temple Island somewhere the city can finally be proud of,” he added.
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