Eoin Brown, Gown Contributor
The long-awaited planning permission for West Belfast’s Casement Park has received the rubber stamp from Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon for redevelopment. GAA fans hope that the stadium will return to its former glory, albeit on a much larger and modern scale.
After numerous years of stalemate and uncertainty going back to a 2014 High Court decision over residents’ disputes, a plan for the redevelopment of Casement Park in on the Andersonstown Road in West Belfast has been recommended for approval.
Department for Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon MLA, has been credited with recommending the planning approval to build a state-of-the- art 34,578 capacity stadium on the site of Casement Park.
Casement Park will become the re-christened home of Ulster GAA once again in the coming years and will ensure that County Antrim GAA will no longer be homeless.Eoin Brown
Speaking to BBC News NI, on Tuesday October 14th, after making public her announcement, she said the “complex application” process had been “carefully considered…. I believe it will be truly tranformational in sporting terms and economic terms for the whole of Ulster.”
Followers of Ulster GAA will no doubt be delighted that Casement, which was left in a state of disrepair for nearly a decade, will finally be hosting Ulster gaelic football and hurling finals in the next few years. The last game played in Casement was in June 2013, a match which Antrim lost 0-6 0-11 to Monaghan in the Ulster Senior Football Championship.
Originally plans to build a new stadium on the site were stalled due to a legal challenge by residents over the capacity; with residents agreeing to a scaled-down capacity of 25,000 as opposed to the GAA’s wish for a 38,000 capacity. Of course, even now that planning has been recommended for approval does not mean that there won’t still be issues.
To allay previously expressed health and safety concerns the new architectural drawings include a central 360 degree spectator ring with a specially designed entrance-exit system.
This recent development, however. will give Ulster GAA followers hope that Casement Park will become the re-christened home of Ulster GAA once again in the coming years and will ensure that County Antrim GAA will no longer be homeless.
Peter Donnelly, Editor
In its 63-years Casement Park has seen its fair share of activity, the past decade however has proved particularly challenging. Before the Casement site, in West Belfast, redevelopment plans gained a concrete footing; the planning process surrounding the GAA’s scheme has been the site of contention. Local people, resident in the surrounding area, expressed stern objections when original GAA approved plans for a 38,000 capacity venue were submitted to Belfast City Council in 2013. Following judicial review proceedings in 2014, instituted by concerned local residents, the High Court quashed previously approved plans. Since then, the pattern of the re-development process has been characterised by persistent delays.
Nicola Mallon, Infrastructure Minister, announced on Tuesday, 13th October, that she had recommended planning approval for a reduced capacity stadium of 34,000. She explained to the BBC, that the new plans would deliver “a landmark stadium” instead of the existing and rapidly decaying site. Mallon suggested the scheme would form part of an overarching regeneration blueprint for a neglected part of the City. It is understood that strong objections have been raised by residents against this newly revised application, with the Minister being in receipt of over 1,000 lodged objections.
In the troubling times of Covid, with already periously strecthed public funds, these new plans and the corresponding objections are not likely to be upper-most in the minds of Northern Ireland society, at large, The Casement show will undoubtedly continue.