Entering the Arena with BS10 Parks & Planning

The BS10 Parks and Planning group keep a keen eye on everything going on around us.  They meet to discuss what’s happening, what’s planned, what residents want to happen, and don’t want to happen.  They keep tabs on development plans and are the people to go to if you want to find out more about what’s being built in our surrounding area.  BS10 is a large area to cover but if there’s something happening, this group know about it.

The group have been following the progress in the area around which was once Charlton Village, soaked up into Filton Airport, and now being developed by the company YTL to build a whole new neighbourhood, Brabazon, as well as the new music Arena in the biggest old plane hangar.

The Secretary of BS10 Parks and Planning, Mike Murch, is an extremely proactive and valuable volunteer for Southmead and has kept in touch with the YTL/Brabazon team since the project started.  Today, a group of us made up of volunteers and community workers went with Mike to find out more about what’s being planned right on our doorstep.  The new neighbourhood and Arena will massively impact us all in many ways, so we need to pay close attention to what’s coming and how we can aim for the most positive outcomes for ourselves such as employment opportunities and community links.

Today we were shown around the old hangar, where the Brabazon and Concorde planes were built, and which is hoped to become one of the top music venues in the country.  Standing there it was difficult to visualize how this enormous and now empty space will be transformed into a state of the art entertainment venue, but what was clear was the passion from the Brabazon team to make this happen, and for it to be as sympathetic as possible to the original hangar structure.

The building of the Brabazon Airliner on this site meant a lot to families in Southmead.  Many of us will have relatives who worked on this, then, state of the art project – a beautiful mode of transport with inbuilt entertainment such as a cinema, and lounges for flying in comfort.  The Brabazon simply shimmered when it took off for its glorious first flight in 1949 and people came from miles to watch.  The older people we meet in Southmead now were then kids who watched in awe from the grassy banks around the airfield as the Brabazon rose.

However, it was a short-lived enterprise.  Alan, from the Brabazon team, explained today that the idea of packing as many people as possible into an aircraft soon saw off the idea of a luxurious Airliner like the Brabazon, designed with generous space per passenger in mind; it was relegated to a show plane and the rest is history.

Alan (pictured in orange) has overseen the site since the 1970s through all its changes.  His dedication to his job simply shines from him, and as he showed us around the main and side hangars he shared stories of how the planes used to be built.  We saw a huge curtain which would be brought around to create the right conditions to paint the planes, and bits of aircraft which will be repurposed in the new venue.  Lately, the area has been used for filming with the creation of huge sets such as castles and beaches; we did think it would be a great setting for a Bond movie – called Brabazon!

We want to say a huge thanks to Alan and the team for their time today, and for being so open in answering our many questions as we seek to work out the huge impact of the development on our community.  We were fascinated by the detailed efforts to keep as much of the original hangar structure as possible, and how the new elements of the building will not only help to create the best sound inside, but make sure as little noise as possible escapes.  It was great to hear that the Arena will have zero fossil fuel use, with green and sustainable transport links, and that the old railway line will be re-opened.

If you have concerns about how the Brabazon or Arena development will affect our day to day lives, or want to find out more, then do come along to the next BS10 Parks and Planning meeting (details below).  And do have a look at the Arena website which is full of information and images of what the Arena will look like.  The first elements open to the public should only be a few years away now so watch this space!

Contact BS10 Parks & Planning, email: mike.murch@sky.com

YTL Arena website, click HERE

The story of Bristol’s Brabazon Airliner, click HERE

BS10 Parks & Planning meet every month, alternating between the Greenway Centre and Henbury Community Centre.  Come along to the meetings, everyone’s welcome.  The next meeting is on Monday 12th June at the Greenway Centre, 6pm – 7:30pm.

Mike is a hard-working volunteer for the Southmead Community (huge thanks Mike).  If you’d like to find out more about becoming a volunteer please contact our Volunteer Coordinator Alex, email: alexbennett@southmead.org or tel: 0117 950 3335.