The subject of this open meeting held on March 26th was the proposed new Sainsbury’s store development on the site of the Bristol Rovers Memorial Ground in Horfield.

It was part of a series of meetings and opportunities for public consultation organised by Sainsbury’s, prior to their submission of a formal planning application to Bristol City Council.

Ben Littman of Sainsbury’s Regional Development Executive began by outlining the proposed plan for the superstore and summarising the feedback they had received from earlier consultation exercises. The site had originally been put up for competitive tender by Bristol Rovers about 2½ years ago, after their own plans for a redeveloped stadium, hotel and student accommodation which had been approved, were shelved because of financial constraints.  Sainsbury’s want the site to be a ‘mixed use’ one combining a range of family homes from apartments to three-bedroom houses, as well as flexible commercial units. The houses, which will number around 50 or so, will go some way to screening the store building.  The parking, for around 450 cars, will be largely underground. The main use of the site would of course be for the 50,000 square ft. store itself, which would be equivalent to the size of the Sainsbury’s at Winterstoke Road.

It was clear that the architects and designers had made some effort to take account of the need to consider environmental issues, particularly ensuring it would be a ‘sustainable’ development that had a ‘low impact on the environment’. Use of solar panels would reduce CO2 emissions by 7%.  By employing skylights and automatic electric light dimmers, renewable energy sources for heating, and natural CO2 as a refrigerant, these new technologies would lead to a further significant reduction in carbon emissions. A target that Sainsbury’s have set themselves over the next 8 years is to double the sales figure for British grown food and to make more use of local sourced food. As an amateur entomologist, I was pleasantly surprised with the plan to even install ‘bee hotels’ to provide winter shelter and breeding sites for various solitary bees!

Ian Baker of ‘Sustainable Bishopston’ who was also on the panel of speakers commented that he was impressed with this sustainability policy and that it demonstrated sound environmental arrangements.  However he was concerned, as clearly other people were, by the undoubted increase there would be in traffic and its concomitant increase in air pollution, noise and road congestion and he pointed out that the site borders one of the council’s Air Quality Management Areas along the A38.
Bev Knott, the local councillor spoke and stated that he would prefer not to have a supermarket on the site, his main concern being the negative effect it would have on the present thriving independent traders along the Gloucester Road. However, he also thought the site was not a good location for Rovers.  He felt that there was still a need for local councillors to hear a range of opinions from the public before a properly considered decision could be made. 

Michel Khan, representing the Gloucester Road independent traders, reminded the meeting of the fiasco of the planning application submitted by the large national Costa group for a site on the Parade and how there was much local opposition to it.  He too, was particularly concerned about the inevitable traffic problems the superstore would create and also the local traffic disruption arising from the construction process.  He also pointed out that 40% of Sainsbury’s large stores are devoted to non-food sales – a fact that would undoubtedly affect our local non-food retailers.  Michel also wondered, with the current high rateable value of a central area parking space, whether Sainsbury’s would be expected to pay 450 times this sort of figure for their parking spaces.

The planning officer, Peter Westbury explained the background to the Sainsbury’s proposal. The approved plans by Rovers to build a new stadium and other uses on the site had not been implemented and renewed planning permission was now required if the development is to go ahead. However a resubmitted application from Bristol Rovers has been temporarily put on hold until there is an outcome to the Sainsbury’s application. The approved Rovers’ plans are shown in Sainsbury’s literature superimposed on their own plan and it is clear that the new stadium, if it were to be built, would be more than twice the height of the proposed Sainsbury’s store. The overwhelming dimensions of the buildings making up this stadium complex were, of course what caused the formation of the Horfield ROSE group, set up to oppose these original proposals. 

The consultation period for the Sainsbury’s development plan will close at the end of April. The Sainsbury’s representatives made it clear that they were willing to consider feedback from the consultation process.  Thus one significant change will now be to close off what had originally been a planned access from Alton Road. There will follow a statutory consultation period for around three weeks following a submission of a planning application (likely to take place at the end of April). It was expected that a final decision will be made in July. Peter said that a planning officer, in making a decision on such a large development site, has to consider ‘what is good for Bristol as a whole’ but that they would essentially be looking for the best the council can get out of the site.  He also made it clear that ‘the policy of the Council as it stands is to keep a stadium on the site unless there are very good reasons not to do so’.

Undoubtedly one of the main concerns expressed at the meeting was increased traffic problems and air pollution.  There would also be continuing concern that once the store is up and running, Sainsbury’s could push for extensions to opening hours and other changes to the originally accepted plans for their superstore.

Simon Randolph

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Up to date information on the consultation regarding the Sainsbury's development can be found at: