Video: Asbestos workers spotted at Casement Park ground in Belfast

Contractors at the Casement Park site in Andersonstown, west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

ASBESTOS contractors have been working at the disused Casement Park site in west Belfast.

Workers in hi-vis gear have been spotted carrying out operations with specialist equipment including an asbestos decontamination unit.

Ulster GAA said the contractors were undertaking "routine pre-construction works" as part of its planning application to build a new stadium.

The £77m Casement Park project, which includes £62m of public funds, has been beset with years of problems and delays.

Work was due to begin two years ago, but in 2014 planning approval for the original 38,000-capacity design was quashed in a High Court challenge.

A revised planning application was submitted in February with a reduced spectator capacity of around 34,000.

Ulster GAA hopes to finish construction in 2019, but residents behind the previous court action remain opposed, saying it is "not a significant reduction" in capacity.

Civil servants in the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) will decide on the planning application if no new executive is formed.

Asbestos was one of the issues for which Stormont's Department of the Environment drew judicial criticism in the previous legal challenge.

The judge found the department's failure to engage with residents about mitigating the risk of asbestos escaping from the site during demolition and building works was in breach of planning regulations.

Asked about the current operations, an Ulster GAA spokesman said: "The GAA and its contractor team are undertaking routine pre-construction works at Casement Park at the present time, as set out in the environmental statement submitted as part of its planning application.

"These works are being carried out following all statutory requirements and best practice. The work will continue over the next couple of weeks."

Meanwhile, a report commissioned to examine part of the new stadium's emergency evacuation plans has given the green light to the proposals.

The 'Movement Consultant' paper by engineering firm Aecom says the Stockman's Lane roundabout "can safely accommodate pedestrians and emergency vehicles in a hypothetical worst case emergency scenario".

"The blue light agencies can rely on the findings of this report in support of the development of their multi-agency response plan," it adds.

The report was released through a freedom of information request, but the six-page document does not give details of how Aecom arrived at its findings.

Aecom was appointed in May to carry out the assessment following concerns raised last November by the PSNI of an "unacceptable risk" in emergency evacuation proposals.

The report received Department for Communities (DfC) funding of up to £25,000.

There have been questions over whether Aecom should have carried out the report given its previous work on Windsor Park – one of the three projects including Casement within Stormont's Regional Stadia Programme.

In the Movement Consultant contract papers, it says "consultants who have been involved in the Department for Communities Regional Stadia Programme to date will be deemed to have a conflict of interest and therefore not eligible to tender".

However, DfC said it was deemed that there was "no conflict of interest".

"Aecom was not a movement consultant on the Windsor Park project. Aecom was a sub-contract structural engineer procured and appointed by the main contractor," a spokeswoman said.

"Because the company's roles in the two projects are different, it was considered that there was no conflict of interest."

Contractors at the Casement Park site in Andersonstown, west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Contractors at the Casement Park site in Andersonstown, west Belfast Picture Mal McCann.

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