Temple Island deal: mayor hails ‘win-win’ despite opposition

Plans for the development include a deal to build 500 homes, a hotel and conference centre

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has called fresh plans for Temple Island a “win-win” for Bristol citizens though former mayor George Ferguson said the deal is a “huge favour” to developers.

The council has this week announced plans for 500 new homes, office blocks, a 350-room hotel and a conference centre on the derelict land adjoining Temple Meads railway station. The plans were developed by Legal & General. 

“This is a fantastic chance to bring a redundant piece of land back to life and provide jobs, homes and an economic boost in the heart of the city that all Bristol citizens will benefit from, “ said Mr Rees.

“This is why we will work with Legal and General to deliver this scheme so we can off-set any risk to the public purse.

“L&G bring with them investment, financial backing and a wealth of experience and have a track record of delivering similar schemes in Newcastle, Leeds and Cardiff which have reaped rewards for those cities,” Mr Rees added.

The island site was home to railway works, but has been derelict for 40 years. Plans for the mixed-use development come after Mr Rees confirmed in September 2018 that the land would not be used for Bristol’s first arena, despite the council sinking £12m into clearing and preparing it for the concert venue.

The council will spend £32m preparing the land and sorting contamination issues, before disposing of Temple Island to the asset management firm as part of a lease agreement with the council. The council said the site will bring in an annual rental revenue of £1.69m and more than £1m annually in business and council tax rates.

But former mayor George Ferguson said: “The city council is underwriting this deal. It’s underwritten to the extent that the purchaser is taking no risk – as far as I know – for decades at our expense.”

The council says the plans support its ambition to deliver more affordable homes in Bristol. 

The council has set a target of 40% affordable housing for Temple Island, but a council-commissioned report from KPMG dated January 27 noted: “It is unclear whether the 40% target for affordable housing will delivered through the initial three apartment blocks proposed. In the instance that the target is not met in the three apartment blocks, L&G has stated that it will build a fourth apartment block to meet the target in Phase 2. 

“We have previously noted the greater uncertainties relating to Phase 2, which also means there would be more risk and uncertainty around the delivery of these residential units and the timing for meeting the affordable housing target would be extended.”

Phase 1 of the scheme is due to complete by 2025.

Phase 2 plans currently include the delivery of one residential block, but its construction plans are less advanced. At present there is no information about the expected number of housing units, or the share of these that will be affordable housing.

The launch of the new plans were overshadowed when sections of the commercially sensitive report were revealed following a mistake in redacting tranches of information. Sections of the report that were redacted could simply be pasted into a Word document, resulting in parts of secret, blacked-out text being published on social media.

Caitlin Bowring

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