Words mostly by Tim Mars, with some added/edited by Jonathan Briggs
Media coverage of the meeting
Our November meeting to discuss and debate the Eco-Park proposals proved very popular, with the somewhat controversial concept attracting a lot of publicity before and after the event. The attendees included representatives from The Citizen, Stroud Life, Stroud News and Journal and BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
The resulting coverage was excellent and extensive, with Tim Mars’ press release mercilessly pillaged (which either reflects his excellent writing or some lazy journalism, or maybe both). This did mean, of course, that the background information published was mostly accurate.
Stroud News and Journal ran a very extensive piece, with photo —though it did claim Simon Pickering was a member of Stroud Civic Society (he is, possibly, a lapsed member) and failed to include planning in Hugh’s title (not to mention chocolate hobnobs…). You can read that here.
Stroud Life‘s coverage also included a photograph of the meeting, which you can see here. This article generated an extremely thoughtful and well argued website comment (below the main article on the link above) pointing out that as the local telephone exchanges ‘have yet to be upgraded to provide even high speed broadband data, let alone the kind of telecommunications infrastructure that would be needed…it is hard to imagine the site being a draw for technology businesses.’ The writer also ridicules the idea of the EcoPark being a draw for tech and green tech businesses bearing in mind the countervailing attractions of the well-established Bristol and Bath digital cluster—the second largest digital employer in the UK, with 61,653 people working in tech, and a 65% increase in new digital companies incorporated between 2010-13. Details of that are here.
The meeting was also very well covered on Friday morning on the Mark Cummins breakfast show on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Stroud Civic Society was name-checked, there was an interview with David Drew, Stephen Davies and even (I think) our very own Sue Houseago! They also interviewed Alex Bomberg from Eastington (who did not attend the meeting) down-the-line. The relevant clip from that programme can be heard be heard by clicking here (audio clip will open in a new window, and is BBC copyright)
Some other matters arising from the meeting:
Why not just a new standalone FGR stadium?
The question has been asked: ‘if FGR require another site for their matches why can’t it be just that – why must it be linked to an industrial site?’
As was explained at the meeting, FGR can only afford to build a new stadium with the income from the EcoPark to subsidise it. There is no stadium-only option.
Conversely, the state-of-the-art sporting facilities, nature reserve and the possibility of opening up part of the ‘missing mile’ of the Stroudwater Canal on either side of the M5 are the carrot to justify building an out-of-town business park—however supposedly ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’—just off the motorway on a greenfield site.
The most depressing thing to emerge from the meeting and in conversation afterwards was that Ecotricity and Forest Green Rovers would have preferred to build their stadium/EcoPark as part of a planned new settlement at Standish Junction—on land mostly already owned by Gloucestershire County Council—hubbed by a new railway station positioned athwart the Midland and Great Western lines so as to be able to offer direct through services to Bristol and the southwest, Gloucester and the north as well as to Stonehouse, Stroud and London. The arguments for this station and settlement were eloquently advanced by Hugh and Nick Falk at previous meetings, but the addition of the stadium/EcoPark would have been a major bonus and should have kickstarted the scheme. Workers at the EcoPark and FGR fans would then have been able to access the site by train and the development would have more claim to the word ‘sustainable’.
Alas, no. Instead of which, we can expect a ragbag of unsustainable and poorly accessible developments around Stonehouse, Eastington, Westend, Nupend and junction13. Of which the EcoPark is just one.
That said, by the end of the evening I concluded (with reservations) that there was a strong case for the proposed stadium/EcoPark at junction 13, as long as a number of serious downsides can be addressed. That might include the reöpening of Stonehouse Bristol Road railway station.