A Tale of Two Arenas

The Bristol Arena declares sustainability will be at its heart, but the Cardiff Arena has little interest in this.

Bristol: home to a proposed arena which will run without fossil fuels. Picture credit: Ali Mannan

By Lyn Eynon, planning lead, Cardiff Civic Society

Recently, Cardiff Cabinet adopted its One Planet Vision for a Carbon Neutral City by 2030.  Council Leader Huw Thomas likes to claim Cardiff is playing a ‘leading role’ in the fight against environmental collapse.  But that is not true.

Cardiff Council has yet to follow Senedd in declaring a Nature Emergency to reverse critical biodiversity loss.  The One Planet Action Plan is weak, placing hope in individual action while Council itself presses on with destructive projects.

One of these is its plan to regenerate Atlantic Wharf around a new Indoor Arena.  Bristol, the closest UK Core City to Cardiff, is also building an Arena.  Comparing the two shows how far Cardiff is behind.

  • The Bristol Arena declares sustainability will be at its heart, but the Cardiff Arena has little interest in this.
  • The Bristol Arena promises to be carbon neutral from day one, but the Cardiff Arena only talks of ‘future proofing’ towards net zero.
  • The Bristol Arena promises to run without fossil fuels, but the Cardiff Arena energy strategy includes gas boilers for peak loads.
  • Both Arenas will have solar panelling on the roof, but Bristol will have five times as much, with Cardiff preferring to use space for a giant advertisement.
  • Before it opens Bristol’s Arena will have a new station nearby on an existing rail line, while Cardiff has only unfunded dreams for its Metro and Crossrail.
  • Bristol will repurpose a Filton hanger, but Cardiff will construct a new Arena, which requires far more embodied carbon.

Council wants to regenerate Atlantic Wharf by demolishing all existing buildings, although the Arena can be built without this.  The Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Academy of Engineers have called for a rethink of such destructive development methods.  But Cardiff Council likes bulldozers.

We should not be surprised that Cardiff Council will be satisfied with an environmentally inferior Arena.  Bristol declared a climate emergency ahead of Cardiff and has recognised the ecology crisis.  Bristol has been recognised by the UK and the EU as a Green Capital.  Bristol’s One City Plan is more comprehensive and more mature than One Planet Cardiff.

Bristol is not perfect.  Cardiff does more recycling.  But on most measures Bristol does better on climate and environment.  If Cardiff wants to play a leading role, then it has to deliver in practice not just on paper, and rethink its development plans for the city.

Atlantic Wharf needs regeneration.  Too much land is devoted to car parking and could be better used, for the benefit of both Cardiff Bay and the city.  But we must get this right.

Cardiff Council will be Joint Applicant for the Atlantic Wharf and Arena Planning Application, which has not yet been submitted.  There is still time to meet the aspirations of its One Planet Vision.  Second best is not good enough.  Where is our Capital Ambition?

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