Work to unlock a development site which has been earmarked for Bristol’s ambitious Arena project is about to start in earnest.

Communities Minister and Bristol West MP Stephen Williams joined partners at the Diesel Depot site beside Temple Meads station today to mark the start of infrastructure work which will unlock the site for major development.

The £11.5m project commissioned by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) will see a new two lane bridge installed over the River Avon to improve links with the station and the rest of the city. Work is also underway to enhance the bridge by creating a green corridor using trees and other climbing plants across its structure and along pedestrian routes.

This represents the first physical step in supporting Bristol City Council and the West of England LEP’s ambitions to bring a 12,000-capacity Arena to Bristol, which would be based on part of the Diesel Depot site. It happened as the Government today awarded £6m to Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone to enable the redevelopment of additional underused and derelict land and encourage businesses to open in the area.

Speaking as work started on site today, Mr Williams said: “Bristol city centre has already been transformed through the government and local enterprise zone’s support for the area, with rundown buildings redeveloped and turned into thriving businesses.”

He added: “Part of the ongoing transformation of the city centre is the planned building of Bristol Arena, giving the city its first world class entertainment venue, supported by the council, enterprise partnership and government. The work on this new bridge over the Avon will vastly improve access to the Arena, and I’m very proud to take the first step towards its construction, albeit a very small one!”

David Warburton, HCA head of area, added: “This work is a clear signal of the HCA’s support for partners’ plans to bring new jobs and economic growth to Bristol.

“Development of this site has been constrained for many years because of the lack of access and infrastructure which has effectively cut it off from the rest of the city. This work will help to address this and support the council and LEP’s vision for an arena on the site, which has the potential to generate a huge number of jobs.

“The HCA has worked hard to secure the investment and agree the terms needed to progress this work and it is great news for the city that this work is underway.”

Colin Skellett, chairman for the West of England LEP, said: “It’s great to see actual physical work starting on the arena site. This new bridge is a vital piece of infrastructure, opening up the site and improving access to and from the station and with the rest of the city.

“It brings us another step closer to the arena – something that is much needed for the city region, not just in giving us a first-class entertainment venue, but as a catalyst to investment here, creating future jobs and growth.”

Geoff Gollop, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, said:“I welcome the work commencing on the bridge to Arena Island which is set to bring so much more than the arena itself which is already proving a significant catalyst for development in the enterprise zone and will give a huge boost to the city region.”

Contractor John Sisk and Son (Sisk) has set up on site and cleared some ground where the infrastructure will be placed. Sisk is also proceeding with the procurement of key sub-contractors and material orders. Completion is expected before the end of next year.

Owen Sisk, director of the Sisk Group added: “This is an exciting time and the prospect of unlocking access to this site through our skills in bridge construction is a responsibility and challenge that we are relishing. I look forward to watching this area evolve for the benefit of local and wider communities.”