THE residents of Bristol could be skiing down the slopes before Swindonians have even seen a brick laid after planning permission for a huge leisure complex near Cribbs Causeway was given the green light this week.
The new development will feature a ski slope, an indoor sky-diving centre, an ice rink, restaurants, retail space and a hotel. Phase one is set to be completed and open to the public by next year.
Meanwhile in Swindon, the North Star site which should have been home to a leisure and entertainment complex to be the envy of the region is still sitting empty.
A 2015 planning application outlined an ambitious vision including a ski slope, a cinema and a 5,000 seat arena as well as restaurants, retail and a hotel.
But the project has been plagued with missed deadlines and delays – two years on it has yet to be granted even outline permission.
In January it was saved from total collapse when a new development firm, Seven Capital, swooped in to bail out the council’s troubled partner. But the council is yet to agree a formal deal with Seven Capital and three months on it says due diligence is still being conducted.
Critics have argued the arrival of a brand new leisure facility in Bristol, so similar to that proposed in Swindon, must fundamentally change the viability of the North Star project. However the council is remaining defiant.
Garry Perkins, the cabinet member responsible, said: “We believe the North Star offer, as a regional leisure destination, is qualitatively superior to the proposals for Cribbs Causeway.
"Seven Capital Investments, currently managing a development portfolio of more than £800 million, has a solid track record of developing major schemes and is more than willing to help us deliver a significant regeneration project for the town, with more than £100m of investment.
“If Seven Capital’s proposals are supported by cabinet, and following a period of due diligence, detailed planning proposals could be submitted later this year.
"We are still determined to maintain the momentum for this exciting scheme to get off the ground.”
Labour has expressed concern that delays have led to Swindon being left behind Bristol.
The party’s leisure spokesman, Coun Jim Robbins, said: “It calls into question the Tory council’s delivery of major projects yet again.
"This casts further doubt on their ability to get the snowdome project up and running.
"We wait with baited breath to see what happens next.”