January 20, 2015
(This article is adapted from the Bristol Post on Tuesday 20th January 2015.)
BRISTOL Rovers will take supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to court in a last-ditch attempt to save their hopes of building a new £40million stadium.
Plans for a new home for the club at Stoke Gifford have been hanging by a thread since Sainsbury’s announced a dramatic cutback in new stores following a slump in profits.
Although the supermarket chain has not publicly said it no longer wants to go ahead with buying the Memorial Stadium to build a new store, there is a widespread view that Sainsbury’s have gone cold on the idea.
A hearing is due to be heard in the High Court next month where the club will try to persuade a judge that Sainsbury’s have entered into a contract to buy the site, which should be honoured. If the issue is not resolved at this first hearing, the judge is expected to proceed with a full hearing at a later date.
Both sides have been locked in a legal wrangle for months over the small print of the planning consent, which Sainsbury’s claimed made the proposed store commercially unviable.
But from the club’s point of view, all the problems have been sorted out, so there is nothing to stop Sainsbury’s from going ahead with buying the ground.
The club has always made it clear that it could not go ahead with its new 21,700-seat stadium unless the sale of the ground went ahead to help pay for the scheme.
Planning permission for the stadium was given by South Gloucestershire councillors way back in July, 2012 and Bristol City councillors gave consent for a new store in January 2013.
Club chairman Nick Higgs said that for legal reasons he was unable to comment.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “Due to ongoing legal action we are unable to comment any further.”
One of the major stumbling blocks in the wrangle between the two sides was resolved last November when Bristol councillors gave overwhelming support to increase the number of hours for deliveries at the proposed supermarket, despite a barrage of protests.
Sainsbury’s had told the club that a new store at the Mem was not tenable without changing the permitted delivery hours. The chain had put in its own application for an increase but was turned down under delegated powers by the council’s planning officers.
Sainsbury’s did not appeal the decision but the club agreed to put in its own application, which was beefed up with a package of mitigating measures to improve the chances of consent being given.
If councillors had refused consent, then the club would have appealed the decision.
But the appeal process would have taken months, causing yet another delay for hopes of a new stadium.
(To read the full article, you will need to access the Bristol Post.)