Bristol City Council has been accused of performing another U-turn in the long-running Ashton Vale town green saga, less than a week before a High Court judge is due to rule on the issue.
The administration’s statements in May appeared to state that it had withdrawn from its defence of the decision by councillors last summer to split the site.
The decision by councillors last year allowed for Bristol City FC to build its new stadium in the northern half while the remainder was kept as a town green.
But new arguments over the status of a third area of the land, known as the Silbury Strip, have come to light. The council now appears to have changed its position and intends to contest the registration of the Silbury Strip as part of the town green.
Despite missing key deadlines set by the court to submit a ‘skeleton’ case to the court, it is now likely that a court hearing will go ahead next Thursday.
Writing in Bristol24-7 today, Tony Dyer says: “It has become clear that in terms of indicating the future intentions of the Council, statements on the Council website are apt to have an usefulness equivalent to the provision of bicycles for fish.
“It now appears that despite publicly stating that it will not be contesting the Judicial Review, and despite having missed the relevant deadlines for filing critical documents, the council is nevertheless now attempting to perform a U-turn in regards to its publicly stated intentions on the council website.
“Contrary to its acceptance, as stated on its own website, that the Silbury Strip should be registered as Town Green ‘without any further reference to the independent inspector, or to the council committee’, the Council is now apparently retracting from this position.
“Such an order to register land as Town Green can only be implemented lawfully if the council determines that the original intention of the PROWG was to indeed register the land in question and the council is now insisting that there is in fact doubt as to whether this was indeed the intention.”
Should the council lose the legal arguments due to start next week, the future of the new stadium for Bristol City could come to an end.
Former Bristol City FC chairman Colin Sexstone spoke of his sadness last month, after the council stated it was withdrawing from the judicial review process, that the club’s dreams of building a new stadium at Ashton Vale could be destroyed.
“Sadly, it’s down to just a few people and a number of outside organisations who’ve lost Bristol the chance to have a new stadium,” he said.
“It was going to be such a wonderful development opportunity but now that could be gone and that is so, so sad.”
Meanwhile, yesterday The Post reported councillors will almost certainly abide by an independent inspector’s recommendations on the future of Ashton Vale.
They will be told that to do otherwise would probably be consigning Bristol City Council to another long and expensive legal wrangle over the future of the site.
A council spokesman said yesterday: “The matter is still before the court and the final decision on the referral back to the Inspector lies with the court. We hope to hear shortly.
“It is far too premature to imagine what the Inspector’s recommendations will be, though it would be reasonable for the Public Rights of Way Committee to follow such recommendations unless there are grounds not to.”