Tim Davies, head of South West and Wales for global real estate services company Colliers International, has warned that Bristol City Council could end up embroiled in costly legal battles if Mayor Marvin Rees decides not to pursue plans for an arena in the city centre, and gives the go-ahead for a mixed-use scheme with a conference centre.
Mr Davies was speaking ahead of the Tuesday September 4 Cabinet meeting at which Marvin Rees is expected to announce his decision on the best use for land on Arena Island, near Temple Meads station.
He said: “It is a bitter irony that the intervention of Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees in the name of seeking value for money, could now result in the council facing expensive legal challenges.
“There are already indications that these challenges could come from both the contracted operator, Arena Island Ltd, and from Buckingham Group, contractors for the construction of an arena. Moreover, they could be supported by city centre businesses, including hoteliers and restauranteurs.
“A lawyer representing the operator has submitted a number of Freedom of Information requests that point to consideration being given to pursuing a judicial review, or suing for breach of contract, or both.
“These requests have included questions about meetings between Marvin Rees and YTL; the connections of the Arena consultant appointed by Bristol City Council; the timescale of discussions about abandoning the original plans for Arena Island; and the date on which Legal and General instructed Zaha-Hadid Architects to design an alternative scheme.
“The council and its taxpayers could be left facing enormous costs if it is proven that Bristol City Council did not follow correct procedures ahead of announcing a decision to abandon plans to build an arena in the city centre, and thereby open the way for Malaysian company YTL to build an arena in Filton.
“Legal action over the decision on development of Arena Island – or Temple Island as the council is now calling it – could be even more time-consuming, embarrassing and expensive than the judicial review that Bristol City Council lost last month, after the High Court ruled that the decision-making process around the proposed cuts to special needs services was legally flawed.
“Meanwhile, a golden opportunity to attract investment into Bristol city centre through the original vision for an arena near Temple Meads station has been lost, and the location for the proposed arena at Filton will be inaccessible for many, at least until major – and potentially costly – infrastructure improvements have been carried out.”