Bristol arena funding bid turned down

Artist's impression of the arena The 12,000-seat music venue is expected to be built within Bristol's central 70-hectare Enterprise Zone

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A bid for government funding for a 12,000-seat music venue in Bristol has been turned down.

Mayor George Ferguson had bid for £40m to build the arena and a further £35m to refurbish existing venue Colston Hall.

Both bids to the Regional Growth Fund were turned down.

Mr Ferguson, who promised in his election campaign to deliver the arena by 2016, said he was now seeking alternative sources of funding.

The council's Labour leader, Helen Holland, said answers were needed as to whether the bid was inadequate, too ambitious or not ambitious enough.

The idea for the arena, next to Temple Meads railway station, was first mooted 10 years ago.

'Shovel ready'

In May, Mr Ferguson approved £250,000 funding from council reserves to enable a project team to be set up.

He said: "The Regional Growth Fund would have been a quick fix and that would have been splendid, but we didn't have high expectations for it.

"I'm delighted the UWE (University of the West of England) have had some, so we've won some in this region. It was particularly [aimed] towards skills and industry and that sort of thing."

He added that he was talking to government ministers about how to fill the funding gap of about £40m.

"We've got a good eight-figure sum from the City Deal [agreement with government] towards the arena and I'm absolutely confident that we will eventually fill that gap," he said.

Mr Ferguson said it may be the scheme needed to be more "shovel ready" in order to get funding.

'Severely hampered'

Ms Holland, said: "During his campaign for Mayor, George Ferguson prioritised an arena for Bristol, stating that he would knock on the doors that previous leaders had failed to open.

"It seems that those doors have slammed shut again, and Bristol is the loser.

"The arena is a big ambition for the city, not just to match the entertainment and conference venues of our competitors, but as a catalyst for job creation, for regeneration, and for stimulating the local economy.

"It is a cornerstone of the Local Enterprise Zone - which will be severely hampered if the Mayor's bid has gone down."

The Colston Hall, which can hold about 2,000 people, is currently the city's biggest music venue.

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