Northern Ireland news

Casement Park emergency evacuation report completed

Plans for the redevelopment of the Casement Park GAA ground in west Belfast
Brendan Hughes

A report commissioned earlier this year to examine emergency evacuation plans for the Casement Park project has been completed, a Stormont department has confirmed.

But the Department for Communities (DfC) has declined to release the 'movement consultant' paper or give details of its findings.

Global engineering firm Aecom was appointed in May to analyse how pedestrians and vehicles interact in an emergency scenario.

It followed concerns raised in November by the PSNI of an "unacceptable risk" in emergency evacuation proposals for the GAA stadium in west Belfast.

The Safety Technical Group (STG) – which advises on the stadium plans and includes emergency service representatives – later agreed to commission a movement consultant.

The assessment received DfC funding of up to £25,000.

A department spokeswoman said the STG received the final report on Tuesday.

"The STG chairperson will present the report to the DfC stadia programme board in the coming weeks," she added.

Civil servants in the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) are to decide whether to grant planning permission for a redeveloped Casement Park if no new Stormont executive is formed.

The project has been hit by various setbacks over the years, including a successful legal challenge, with its cost topping £9.2m before construction work has even begun.

An overall budget of about £77m has been set aside including £62m of public funds.

Meanwhile, Ulster GAA has said it is "confident" of resolving queries raised by Stormont officials over its planning documents.

Roads officials in DfI deemed transport submissions "unacceptable" and requested further information.

An Ulster GAA spokesman said: "There are 10 statutory consultees to the Casement Park project and to date seven have responded to the DfI on the planning application.

"This is integral to the technical and statutory process and we welcome the comments from DfI Roads which requests further clarification from the GAA.

"The GAA and its highly experienced and competent Integrated Consultancy Team (ICT) are confident that all clarifications will be dealt with to the satisfaction of all statutory authorities."

Ulster GAA, which hopes to finish construction by 2019, has hailed the project's "outstanding sporting, community, cultural and economic opportunities".

On Monday, a senior official behind an all-Ireland bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup said they were "confident" Casement would be ready in time for the tournament.

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