Nick on Sainsbury's being recommended for approval
I have taken the decision to move my Chairman’s Report forward a day so I can share my feelings on the news that Sainsbury’s plans for the Memorial Stadium site have been recommended for approval.
We are very pleased that the officer has recommended approval for the Sainsbury’s development, this is very positive news for the new stadium. However this is just another small but significant step in the right direction, but ultimately the decision rests with the committee next Wednesday.
It is a very in-depth report that I still need to look at in some more detail, but on the face of it, it looks very positive. The fact that it has been referred to the Secretary of State is standard procedure in these types of cases.
It will be a travesty if this development is not approved. Ourselves and Sainsbury’s have put a lot of careful thought into the mixed-use development of the land, which includes not just a supermarket, but affordable housing, community space, a Memorial Garden and car park that can be used by the shoppers of Gloucester Road, which we hope will regenerate an area where parking has been a problem for many years.. As well as that, a new stadium would be a massive benefit to the whole of the South West region.
Obviously we would love to be able to celebrate with you all should Sainsbury’s be given the go ahead next week, but places within the meeting at City Hall will be limited, and I am wary of overwhelming the committee.
Therefore I would urge those of you not speaking to stay away from the meeting. For that reason, we aim to open the bars behind the Blackthorn End for the evening, so you can watch the live streaming of the event together, and hopefully all raise a glass to celebrate at the end result. We will let you know further details on this later in the week.
I don’t need to tell you all how important this decision is for us, it will be one of the most important days in the entire history of the club.
If everything goes ahead we will be ready to start the stadium project in the summer. Unfortunately, it is likely that the opening of the new stadium could now slip to the start of the 2015/16 season, but we will be in contact with the Football League as soon as we know for definite what is happening to see whether we can make a case to see if there are any special circumstances in our favour.
A few people have asked me what will happen to the stadium plans if the worst were to happen and we are relegated. Obviously we do not want to be where we are at the moment, but our position in the league will not impact on the building of the new stadium should Sainsbury’s be successful.
We will be pushing on with the development regardless. But for now it remains our priority to keep Bristol Rovers in League Two and look forward to seeing them playing in a new stadium in the next few years.
To that end we have another tough game coming up this weekend, with a trip to Fleetwood. We go there in good spirits, after much improved performances in the last few weeks, and we are still hopeful that John Ward will bring in some new faces before the weekend to bolster us further.